Buying a car doesn’t rank very high on the list of things people like to do. In fact, a survey by Edmunds found that half of Americans would prefer to clean the toilet rather than face the stresses of car buying. That’s largely due to the typical dealership sales experience, which seems geared to wear you down with pushy salespeople, endless haggling, and unexpected add-on fees.
If you’re like others who dread a trip to the dealership, we have good news. There’s another way to buy a car that avoids the headaches. Even better, it offers access to some of the best used cars on the market. And it saves you money.
So just what is this great car buying secret? It’s simple. Buy your next car from a private seller.
You’ve probably heard by now that car prices are on the rise. Due to worldwide production shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer new cars are making their way dealership lots. And that means consumers are paying more for them.
In fact, according to data provided by Edmunds, the average new car buyer in July 2021 received a discount of just $94 off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). That compares with an average discount of $2331 off the sticker price last year.
With new cars in short supply, shoppers have been turning to used cars instead. That’s led to similar shortages of used cars for sale — and, you guessed it, a similar rise in prices.
But not all used cars have been affected equally. Some have seen price increases more than double those of others.
It used to be that used cars were purchased solely as acts of faith. Tires were kicked, leaks were hunted down, and the wad of receipts in the glove compartment might prove someone once cared about the machine. For a while.
In the 21st Century, virtually every used car is dragging a computerized trail of documentation. And that data has been commoditized in the form of informational websites like Carfax.com or Vincheck.me or whatever went live online in the last few moments. Some sites charge for the information. Some give it away. The relative worth of information you pay for versus that you get for free is something you can only discover with experience. Keep in mind, however, that spending a few bucks on researching a purchase that’s hundreds or thousands of times greater than that expense is likely worthwhile.
Shoppers often miss great bargains when they overlook the occasional used electric vehicle that pops up during their searches.
Electric cars — whether battery-electric EVs with no gas engine at all, or plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that combine electric drive and internal combustion engines — are still a mystery to most Americans.
Even in California, which has been pushing them as a matter of state policy for nearly a decade now, fewer than half the respondents in survey after survey acknowledge knowing much about these cars.
Top of the “things-to-know” list is that, unless something’s gone horribly wrong with the battery (and that’s quite rare), a used plug-in electric vehicle, or PEV, can represent one of the best used car deals in the market today.
That’s because PEVs are usually loaded with features that can be pricey options on cars with conventional gas or diesel powertrains. They typically also have far fewer miles on their odometers, and they deliver significant savings in both fuel and maintenance costs compared to cars with internal combustion engines.
And in most cases, depreciation rates for PEVs are higher than for their conventionally-powered counterparts, which means that their prices, tempered by consumer wariness of the still-unfamiliar technology, are relative bargains.
Things have gone well. The IPO sold out 20 minutes after the market opened, smart accountants have sheltered your accumulated wealth in several creative ways, your health is good, the house is paid for and the pool cleaning guy comes every single day because, dang it, you like a clean pool.
Now’s the time to dip a bucket into your river of revenue and buy your first million-dollar car. Or two-million or three-million or, hey why not, go deep into eight figures for that perfectly extravagant used car.