Buying a used car is smart for a variety of reasons, and one of the best is that it saves you a ton of money. This is fairly obvious, right? But you might be surprised by exactly how much cash that new car is costing you. Let’s explore.
Sure, new cars are lovely, shiny things, as yet unsullied by parking lot dings and travel mug mishaps. But their values drop — precipitously — especially in the first few years of their lives.
This, friends, is known as depreciation, and it’s the surest way to kiss your hard-earned money goodbye, short of setting it aflame.
If you are considering the purchase of a gently-used older car — perhaps something like the 51k-mile Mercedes-Benz S-class pictured above, which originally stickered for sixty grand but recently sold on eBay for just $5300, or even just a practical family hauler that you plan to drive until the wheels fall off — congratulations. You are well on your way to eliminating from your budget the costliest of all car ownership expenses.
However, there’s more to buying an older car than just forking over some cash and autographing the title. While you won’t be signing up for staggering new car payments or steep depreciation, you will have to navigate a few other pitfalls inherent to a taking on a second-hand vehicle.
So before you click Buy It Now on that oh-so-tempting auction, take a moment to consider these five important — and perhaps surprising — guidelines. They will help to ensure that you end up with a car which is not only cheap to acquire but also a joy to own and drive for many years to come.
Buying a used car is not only the best way to get the most car for your money; it also helps you dodge a massive hit from depreciation. And, in some cases, older models are actually better than newer ones.
However, no matter how well you do your research or how great an example you find, a used car is a complex machine with pieces that, after five or ten (or more) years on the road, are sometimes going to break.
That’s why you should make identifying a great local mechanic the very first step in your used car buying process.
Let’s face it: most car shoppers dread the dealership experience. A recent Autotrader study found that fully 99% of shoppers want to see major changes in the dealership sales process. Of course, not all car dealers are bad; some take customer satisfaction quite seriously, earning high marks and repeat business. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction and distrust have long been predominant themes.
In response, third-parties like TrueCar and Edmunds have taken root, aiming to improve the experience by offering consumers insider advice and information as well as member perks like guaranteed discounts. More recently, startups like Beepi and Shift have entered the scene with visions of reinventing the entire dealership sales process.
These changes are admirable and welcome. However, one thing that seems to have been overlooked is the fact that, to buy a car, you don’t actually need a dealership at all.
But here’s possibly the best reason of all to buy a used car: in many cases, older models are actually better than comparable new cars.
Really. Here’s why.
Buying a used car makes a ton of sense financially, but shopping for a used car can be daunting, especially if you aren’t overly familiar with the process or the market. And the truth is, when you’re buying a used car, a lot can go wrong.
There is plenty of good advice out there already, but here are a few common pitfalls that you might not know about.
Okay, let’s say you’re in the market for a car, but you don’t really care too much about saving money. You just want to spend a certain amount on the best thing you can get. Should you still buy used?
Hell yes! Why? Because buying used instead of new gets you WAY more car for your money.
For example, if you have $15,000 to work with, there actually are some decent new car options out there. One is the 2016 Ford Fiesta, recently named by KBB.com as one of the coolest new cars available for under $18,000.
Not bad. But if you go for a used car instead, that same money gets you behind the wheel of something much more interesting.