#1 - Buying Used Will Save You Money
For most people an average car will be one of their biggest purchases in their life. With that being said, getting the most from your money is important. I have purchased many cars in the past and can say confidently, a used car is far better to purchase than a brand new car.
Buying a used car will save you money but you need to do your homework if it will end up being a money pit or a blessing. I have had my share of getting burned with a bad car purchase but most of the time, if you follow my guide you will end up on top.
For example, a brand new CLA250, (which I was looking to purchase), retailed for $42,000 new. However, after 7 years, the same car is priced now at $25,000. Depending on the condition and the maintenance history, you can really find some gems out there.
You might be asking yourself, how do I avoid getting scammed? For me, a good rule of thumb is to NOT get emotional on the purchase and to also know that there will always be more opportunities to buy. Always.
I'll cover some red flags to look out for with a used car.
#2 - Less Vehicle Depreciation
Since the used car is a few years old, you have depreciation working in your favor. Most modern cars can last 100k miles or more easily if properly maintained. This is true for both domestics and imports. However, imports do have better track records.
Remember, your car is just a machine. Things do break and need to be fixed, so just keep that in mind. Keep on top of your maintenance like oil change, your car will treat you right.
You might consider a certified pre-owned car. The advantage here is that you should have some factory warranty or an extended warranty with your purchase. The dealership also knows the car and should be able to address any potential issues prior to the sale.
Since most of your car's depreciation happens in the first 3-4 years of ownership. Most of these cars would come off lease and available for purchase as certified preowned vehicles. Good for you and great for your wallet. Since there are penalties for excessive damage on leases, returned vehicles would make ideal candidates since there is a maintenance history and limitation on mileage per year.
On the Carfax or vehicle history report, you can see how it was used such as personal lease, personal, fleet etc. I would technically avoid cars with a fleet under the Carfax. It's clear to me it might have been used for commercial use or rental.
#3 - Lower Insurance Costs
Another advantage of a used car is the lower car insurance. If you have a used car, typically, your rates would be lower since there would be more parts and car part suppliers in the market. Brand new cars do not have the same support since its new. Secondly, car recyclers do not have inventory to pull from and new parts must be ordered directly from the dealership. Thus, the cost to insure new cars is higher.
There are exceptions to everything. If you are looking at a high performance vehicle with high horsepower, insurance rates may remain high for you.
As for insurance, I have GEICO and have been very happy with the rates. I previously had Liberty Mutual but GEICO's rates were far better.
Bonus Reason: Maintenance
Maintaining a used car may carry some costs. Yes, things are more likely to break but since you saved initially from our good 'old friend depreciation, you can use those savings for your car's maintenance.
If you can wrench, there are tons of youtube videos on how to fix certain things. Secondly, there are forums that can help give you a better idea of the costs involved in the repair. Thirdly, there are plenty of aftermarket parts available to help cut costs. As a car guy, I suggest sticking with OEM parts but finding a local shop to help maintain your car.
I have also purchased OEM parts or A+ Quality parts on Amazon, Ebay and RockAuto, where costs are competitive. You will have to do some price comparison but I have literally saved hundreds of dollars using Amazon Warehouse to Like-New components that they were clearing out. The same holds true on Ebay.
With a used car, you have options on how well you maintain your car.
Whatever car you drive, there will be a community around them. Trust me. There is a group for your car and owners who most likely have experienced issues and resolved them. Plus, there should be a few YouTube videos as mentioned earlier about repairs and what to look for.
Simply visit YouTube and type in "car name/model problems" or "car name/model repair" and you will see other items. RepairPal.com is also a good site to refer to for potential issues.
Detailed Vehicle History
With any used car purchase, I strongly suggest running a Carfax or getting a vehicle history report. It will tell you the service records and history. How many owners and the type of usage. It will also reveal if the car has been in any accidents. Note: Carfax can sometimes be incomplete.
For example, I purchased a BMW 5 series a few years ago and everything looked good. No accidents, off-lease and decent miles. After looking at the car in my driveway, I realized that the rear driver's door had ripples in the paint. The Carfax was clean, zero accidents. But I soon realized that the door had been repaired. While mechanically the car was fine, the body work was never listed on the carfax. So, just be aware that you should look at the car with your own eyes.
Here is another tip, when you plan to test drive a car, try to schedule on a day that is clear and sunny. You will want to view the car and potential imperfections. As mentioned before, I was burned in the past by test driving the car at night and in the rain. Two big no-nos in my guide. Long story short, the car has paint issues and some mechanical issues masked by the rain and water. Learn from my mistakes and be sure to test drive a car.
Good Car History Factors:
Negative Car History Factors:
- Fleet usage
- Multiple Owners 3-4+
- Multiple accidents
- Ownership under 1 year
- Lack of service history (DIY?)
- Service history for same issue
- Heavy perfume or air freshener
The car vehicle history will report many of these items above. Most of the items are self explanatory. However for the negative factors I will detail the reasons I share this.
Fleet is driven hard. They are not owned by the drivers and are a business expense. The only fleet I would consider are police fleets or PPV. These are maintained like clockwork by municipalities.
Multiple Owners 3-4+
Multiple owners indicate to me that the previous owner let go of the car due to an expensive repair in the near future and passed it onto the next owner. Most car owners would rather use their money for a newer car than repair the car. This is what my experience has been.
Accidents are not a deal breaker but you will want to ensure that the repairs done are to your satisfaction. I personally would be ok with accidents, IF the owner had kept the car for at least a year or two. This tells me that there were no issues with the car and the car was repaired ok. If an accident happened in less than 6 months and then the owner was trying to see, it seems like there might be something additionally wrong with the car. But in the end, you will make the call if it makes sense to you.
Multiple accidents can help discount the price further. If the car was driven for 12 months without any major service history, then I would consider test driving the car in person if everything else checks out.
Ownership Under 1 Year
The current owner might be a curbside dealer and flipping the car. This is not a big deal but in my book, the car's health has not been tested by time. You really don't know if there are any hidden issues that may be looming. With car ownership for under 1 year, it makes me weary on WHY they are selling the car. I look for at least 12 months ownership. The longer the better since you can get a better idea on how the car was taken care of. Remember, each used car is unique and you have to protect yourself.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes, estate sales or a friend of a friend would be ok. At least you know the paper trail of who had the car and why it's being sold.
Also, you might want to avoid cars from auctions since you don't have a good idea of the service history. You might be able to find a good deal but it's like finding a needle in a haystack. The old adage goes: If it's too good to be true.... it usually is.
Lack of Service History (Was it DIY?)
The vehicle history report should detail all of the services done to the car. Sometimes, the owner might maintain the car themselves but you should ask for receipts or service records of when they did the services. You can ask what was done to the car and what might be needed.
However, most reports should have some records. Oil changes and tire rotations are common.
Service History for Repeat Issue
If you see the same issue coming up in the service history, then it's important to ask about it. Again, my rule of thumb is if the issue was already addressed months ago (3-6 months) at the car dealership then I would believe that the issue is resolved. But if it's an emissions issue that failed in the last 45 days, then you might have a bigger issue or repair at hand. Use the service history as a guide on how well the car was maintained as well as the visual condition of the car.
Heavy Perfume or Air Freshener
I am a non-smoker so I have a sensitive nose. Cars with heavy scents or perfume could be a clue on underlying problems or odors. A car detail or ozone might be able to remove odors but smoke can be very difficult to remove, especially if it's in the headliner.
Moldy or musty smells could be a sign of water intrusion or water damage. Check the carpets for dampness and the AC for any odd smells. Water will wreak havoc on the car's electrical so be sure to check the floor boards.
Smoke can be masked with odor bombs but can linger months or years after you purchase it. Be sure to check with your nose.
These are the top reasons why you should consider a used car. You can save money and still enjoy the drive. Be sure to check the free car buying guide for more tips and sign up for our newsletter for the latest news.