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.
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.
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. 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.