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.

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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.

Auto Repair

That’s why you should make identifying a great local mechanic the very first step in your used car buying process.

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