Car Buying Tips

The best ways to save money on your next car purchase, including how to navigate the used car buying process like a pro.

Used Cars to Avoid: 2001-2002 Mercedes-Benz S600 V12

The Sonderklasse — German for “special class,” or “S-Class” for short — is the ultimate Mercedes-Benz sedan. Each iteration, dating back to the 1950s, has been a showcase for the automaker’s best design, features, and engineering. And short of an uber-elite Maybach model, a V12-equipped Mercedes-Benz S600 has long been the finest S-Class money could buy.

But it wasn’t always the most reliable. In fact, one particular version of the S600, sold during the 2001 and 2002 model years (in the US), has proved to be one of the most problematic Mercedes-Benzes of the modern era.

Should You Buy a Used Car from a Dealership or a Private Seller?

Is it better to buy a used car from a dealership or from a private seller? That’s a tough question. And the answer is… it depends.

Dealerships sell about two-thirds of all used cars, meaning just a third of used car shoppers turn to private sellers when it’s time to buy. It’s understandable. Most of the used cars for sale at any given moment are offered by dealerships. And shopping at a dealership, which has regular hours and a sales staff, tends to be much more convenient than working with an individual seller.

But that doesn’t mean buying from a dealership is always the way to go. Choosing to buy from a private seller has some major benefits. For instance, cars sold by private sellers generally costs significantly less than those at dealerships. Also, the nicest used cars on the market tend to be offered by private sellers.

In this article, we’ll look at five important factors that go into a decision to buy used car from a dealership vs. a private seller and pick a winner for each one.

How to Buy a Car the Klipnik Way and Save Thousands

Cars are expensive. In fact, the cost of the average new car topped $40,000 for the first time last year, according to CNET. Meanwhile, the average used car price — which recently spiked to $21,500, according to The Car Connection — still isn’t exactly cheap. And that’s just the price of admission. On top of that, you’ve also got fuel costs, insurance and repair bills, maintenance, and more. Add it all up, and it can knock a huge hole in your budget.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. At Klipnik, we’ve identified an approach you can use to reduce your car expenses by half or more. These aren’t strict austerity measures, like choosing to walk instead of drive. And we’re not talking about buying a clapped-out old Corolla. Indeed, you can apply our approach just as easily to buying high-end luxury cars as you can to cheap econoboxes.

Buying a Car Out of State: When It Makes Sense and How to Do It

Even with today’s powerful online car shopping resources, which can bring up listings from Anchorage to Atlanta with the tap of a finger, most new and used car purchases are still made within ten miles from home.

But traveling further in pursuit of the perfect car or the best deal is becoming increasingly common.

According to Automotive News, a leading industry trade publication, “The average distance that a buyer travels has risen steadily since the Internet became an important tool for many shoppers.” And the phenomenon is causing a growing number of people to cross state lines to find the right car, truck, or SUV — especially rare and hard-to-find models.

However, there are many things to know before buying a car, new or used, out of state. Here we’ll cover the pros and cons of such a transaction and help you avoid making some common mistakes.

How to Finance an Older Used Car

We’re no doubt preaching to the choir here, but there are lots of great reasons for buying an older car. If you’re nostalgic for the style of a past era, these vehicles will satisfy your thirst for vintage design. For example, there’s no denying the elegance of a classic Jaguar.

In some cases, older cars offer performance benefits that are hard to duplicate in newer models. Case in point: With its high-revving, naturally-aspirated V8 and sonorous engine note, the E39 generation BMW M5 delivers a driving experience that’s one of a kind.

Finally, buying an older car may allow you to take a big step up when it comes to your choice of vehicle. Thanks to depreciation, older cars are just a fraction of the cost of their new counterparts. Hardly anyone can afford a brand new Mercedes-Benz SL roadster, but one that’s 10 or 15 years old can be had for used Camry money.

While we do advise paying cash for a used car rather than financing it, we recognize that not everyone is in a position to do that. So if you are going to make your purchase with the help of an auto loan, it’s important to know that there are significant differences between financing a new vehicle and an older car.

Because financing an older car comes with a unique set of challenges, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process from start to finish.

What It’s Like to Buy a Car Online

It’s been more than a quarter of a century since a certain bookstore first appeared on the World Wide Web. We now know that site as online superstore, Amazon, and it now sells virtually everything. Except cars. Due in part to antiquated dealer franchise laws and, to some degree, recalcitrant dealers, online car buying is still something of a rarity, even today.

But that’s been changing. A new crop of used car sellers has appeared online in recent years, among them Vroom, Carvana, and Shift. Their aim is to make car buying as easy as clicking on the latest Stephen King thriller and getting it delivered to your door.

The advent of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has spurred this change — not only because many shoppers no longer want to venture out onto a crowded sales floor, but also because pandemic-related inventory shortages have driven consumers to buy cars wherever they can find them.

But does online car buying actually work? We sat down with a recent car shopper to find out.

How to Negotiate the Price of a Used Car

Let’s say you’ve been shopping for a great used car. You’ve found a nice example of the model you want. You’ve checked out the car in person, and you really like it. All that’s left is to hand over the money and drive away — right?

Not so fast. Used car prices are almost always negotiable. With rare exceptions (such as buying from a “haggle-free” dealership), the price you see on the vehicle listing should *not* be the price you actually pay for it. In fact, most used car sellers pad their asking prices by at least a few hundred dollars in anticipation of this.

But how do you get from the asking price to the price that you actually should pay? That’s where the art of negotiation comes in.

How to Buy a Used Car at a Government Auction

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a part of the United States federal government you’ve likely never heard of unless you work in it, total spending by all governments in the United States totaled $7.3 trillion in 2019. That’s 34-percent of the country’s gross domestic product (everything we did that made money). Keep in mind this is for 2019 — before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has blown government spending upwards like a rocket burning a refined distillate of debt.

And what did the local, state, and federal governments throw all that cash at? Well, a lot of things, like ballpoint pens, aircraft carriers, homeless shelters, governor’s mansions, and lots and lots of vehicles. So many vehicles in fact that they’ve always got a bunch to unload.

How to Read a Vehicle History Report from CARFAX or Autocheck

Every car buying expert will tell you the same thing. Don’t buy a used car without reading its vehicle history report thoroughly and carefully.

It’s good advice. Unless the used car in question has always belonged to your uncle Harry, a vehicle history report is the only way for you to learn about the life it has led.

Buying a Used Hybrid? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

It would have been rare a few years ago for hybrids to show up on most used-car shopping lists. There weren’t that many in the market, and there wasn’t much choice. Toyota’s hybrids dominated, with gas-electric models from Honda and Ford in distant second and third place. But stuff happens. Things change.

Today there’s a wide selection of used hybrids available, from almost every manufacturer. Because of their often-stellar fuel efficiency, plus the high-end trim and standard equipment levels among many of the more recent models, they are cars – and crossovers, SUVs, and trucks – that most every used-car shopper should consider.

Because the hybrid marketplace has changed so rapidly over the last ten years, with both hits and misses along the way, it’s important to do your homework before you start browsing the for-sale listings. That’s why we’ve compiled this comprehensive used hybrid buying guide. It’s everything you need to know to make a smart used hybrid purchase.

Used Car Prices Are Higher — Some Far More Than Others

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.

How to Evaluate a Used Car from Its VIN and Records

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.

Buying a Used Electric Car? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

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.

Buying Your First Million Dollar Used Car

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.

Don’t Buy a Used Car Without Doing These 4 Things

You’ve done your research, and you’ve identified the make and model of the used car you wish to purchase. But you didn’t stop there, you busy beaver. You’ve also taken a look at local inventory, and you’ve found a few vehicles in your area that are qualified candidates. There’s even one in the exact color you want.

At this point, your excitement level is probably high. There’s a rush of adrenaline that comes with knowing you’re this close to finding a car that seems like a perfect match for your needs. But don’t let those happy feelings lead to a rash decision. There are still a few final steps to take before you pull the trigger.

Here are four things you should do at this stage in your quest for a stellar used vehicle.