There are many reasons that people buy a used car instead of a new one. Sometimes it’s a matter of being between the rock of basic transportation and the hard place of limited funds. Other times there are models that people find particularly desirable that aren’t made any more or were revamped for the new model year. Still other people never buy a new car because they prefer the financial advantages.
The primary financial advantage of buying a used car is that you won’t absorb the high initial cost of depreciation, about 12 percent the first year, according to Edmunds.com. Some financial advisors recommend used cars for this reason. Because cars are better made now they last longer, so a three-year-old, pre-owned certified car will provide a good value compared to a similar new model. Plus, the amount of research you can do now—not only a make and model, but the exact vehicle you’re considering—has ballooned in the past decade. Certified pre-owned vehicles have taken some uncertainty out of buying used and sometimes a vehicle will still carry a portion of the new warranty.
Researching a vehicle is important whether you buy new or used, but when you choose the latter there are a couple of extra things to check out. You need to decide what kind of vehicle you need and want, what models fit those criteria, how much you can afford to spend and whether you’re going to pay cash or finance the purchase. Cost of ownership items, including fuel and insurance, need to be considered. Maintenance costs are going to be different for a three-year-old economy car and a six-year-old near-luxury model even though both might be listed for the same sale price. Knowing what you’ll be paying out on a regular basis to drive a vehicle is nearly as critical as researching what a particular year/make/model will cost to buy.
Now the search really begins. When you’ve narrowed things down to vehicles you might want to test drive, you’ll want to contact the seller, whether private party or dealer, and get some basic information first. Edmunds.com has a handy Used Car Question Sheet you can use to be sure you ask important questions. Using www.checkcardna.com or bestvindecoder.com can reveal important reasons to scratch a potential vehicle from your list. When you test drive the car, try to start it when it’s cold and turn off the radio and turn down the blower fan so you can check for any odd noises from the drivetrain, brakes and suspension. Check to make sure all the features work. Modern cars have many electrical and electronic items and making sure you know how to use them and that they work can save money and heartache. Use a flashlight to look into dark areas under the hood and underneath the car to check for leaks or damage.
So, you’ve found the vehicle you want to buy. You need to do some further price checking to see how the asking prices compare with the market. Online tools can provide guidance. But it’s also important to check local ads from a few sources to see what the asking prices are where you live for the car you want. If you’re not buying a certified vehicle, a pre-sale mechanical inspection is a good idea and the cost should be borne by the seller. While much of the inspection can be done through the diagnostic port on a modern vehicle, it’s still a good idea to get what’s called a compression and leak down test to determine the condition of the engine’s piston rings and valves. Checking the current condition is important because service records are about how the car was cared for, not what shape it’s in today.