New or used? This is one of the first questions you need to answer when starting your car buying journey. This question can be used to broaden or narrow your search almost immediately. It can also dictate your standards when it comes to price, overall quality, and brand availability. If your answer is used, you’re getting in the market at the right time. Around 40 million used cars were sold in 2018, the highest amount ever recorded. If you’re looking to buy used cars this is a great opportunity. You may be shocked by how much you can get for your budget with a fantastic used vehicle.
For the vast majority of Americans, buying a car is the second biggest decision and purchase they will make in their lifetime. Running in a close second to the home buying process, a vehicle purchase is often filled with the same anxieties and questions. In addition to the prospect of spending thousands of dollars, buyers are faced with a slew of questions surrounding thing like depreciation, gas mileage, reliability, overall quality, etc. And unlike a home purchase, most buyers commit to a vehicle knowing that its value is in usage and they will not recoup the full amount they paid when they sell. Despite these worries, the car buying process should ultimately be a fulfilling experience in which you know you’re making the right purchase. A used car could be the key to thousands of care-free miles on the road.
The Modern Landscape
It’s an old stereotype, but you see it on many TV shows and movies. It’s the used car salesman, greasy and unkempt with a couple of stains on his shirt or facial hair two decades out of style. He patrols his lot like a predator, ready to trap unsuspecting prey. His tactics are simple – bombard shoppers with a pushy attitude and too-good-to-be-true deals until they run away or relent and make a purchase. He’s a swindler but he doesn’t care, all he wants is his customer’s cash. While this trope may still be true in a few dealerships, it’s not representative of the industry today.
The used car industry is currently the most consumer-friendly it has ever been. The present batch of used cars is safer, more technologically advanced and better performing than anything that’s come before it. The buying experience has improved with the cars – shoppers have access to troves of data at their disposal and Carfax reports highlighting areas of concern. The industry has also jumped into the e-commerce space – many customers are skipping the entire dealership experience by buying their vehicles online, financing included!
There are a few good reasons to only buy new cars: warranties, low mileage and no wear and tear among them. But as cars have climbed in quality, their prices have risen too. While some models remain cheap, many grow exponentially more expensive as options and accessories are added. For many, the cost of a new car doesn’t fit into their budget. Luckily, there are some hidden advantages to buying used.
It’s an unfortunate but true adage that any new vehicle begins to lose its value as soon as it leaves the dealer lot. In fact, many vehicles experience their sharpest depreciation at the beginning of ownership. By buying used, you avoid this sudden drop in value to one of your most valuable assets. Any car will continue to depreciate throughout its lifetime, but used owners have a chance to see a better return on investment if and when they decided to sell their vehicle. The depreciation curve may also slide pricier cars into your price bracket. This can be especially helpful for those looking for the most up-to-date safety equipment or a luxury marquee. A used car doesn’t mean you have to downgrade.
Debunking Used Myths
There are plenty of old wives’ tales that you’ve probably heard or seen as you look for a used car. Let’s take a second to debunk some of these anecdotes.
“With no warranty, you’ll spend loads of time and money at the auto shop.”
If a warranty is important to you, you can add an aftermarket warranty to your vehicle at any time. While it won’t be rolled into the cost of your vehicle or “free” like with a new car, it can offset the financial burden if expensive repairs are needed. Also, used cars can be incredibly dependable with proper maintenance. Yes, it may be annoying to deal with getting your car serviced, consistent upkeep can prevent disasters down the road. Although wear and tear are unavoidable, a well-maintained vehicle will give you years of great driving.
“If you have bad credit or no credit, good luck getting anything better than a clunker.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. The key for drivers in this situation is preparation. Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved will help you set a budget and give you an idea of the loan terms with which you’ll be complying. No credit and bad credit buyers also need to make sure they stick to a budget; a sensible car with low payments will pay off in the long term.
“High-mileage vehicles are bad news.”
Again, this comes down to maintenance and looking at the Carfax. If a high-mileage vehicle has multiple accidents and a history of expensive trips to the auto shop, it’s best to stay away. Well-maintained vehicles, however, should be treated roughly the same as any other used vehicle. Many cars are capable of making it to 200,000 and even 300,000 miles. With a little TLC, your used vehicle can do the same.
“You can’t get all the features you want in a used vehicle.”
Anyone who is cynical enough to believe this needs a reality check. Used cars, especially those less than three years old, have many of the same features as their new counterparts. If there are certain features that you want to make sure you have, it’s best to check when the vehicle’s last refresh or redesign took place. For example, the current Honda Civic underwent a full redesign for the 2016 model year and has not yet received a middle-cycle refresh. It stands to reason that a used 2016 Civic will have the same features as a new 2018 model.
“Any used car in the Midwest will be rusted from salt”
Unfortunately, snow and ice are a fact of life in many parts of the country. This means that corrosive salt and other melting products coat many roads from November to April, doing a number on bumpers and undercarriage components. While some rust may be unavoidable, you should always double check trouble spots before agreeing on a final price. If you do find a couple of rust spots, it may not be the end of the world. With regular cleaning and car care, you can easily stop the spread of rust.
Online or In-Person?
Buying a used car has never been easier. While you may be comfortable with the traditional buying experience at a dealership, don’t discount purchasing your next vehicle online. Not a fan of dealing with salespeople or haggling over price? When buying online, you can take as much time as you need, and can know the price you see is the price you pay. Odds are that you already buy other products online – why not make a new ride your next purchase?