Buying a Reliable Used Car for a Fair and Affordable Price

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

When it’s time to buy a car, “new” isn’t always an option – or even your preference. While new cars are nice, they are the costliest way to get four wheels under you. If you’re in the market for a vehicle, a used one may be the way to go to get the most car for your money.

Unlike new cars that begin life in primo condition, used vehicles are sometimes shrouded in mystery. You may wonder these things about a used car:

  • Has it been well-maintained?
  • Was it carefully driven?
  • Does it have any safety or performance issues?
  • Why is it being sold?

The goal when looking to used vehicles is to find reliable wheels at a fair, affordable price. It will take some effort, but there’s a lot you as the buyer of a used vehicle can do to get a good deal – whether you buy from a dealership or a private party.

Determining which used vehicle to buy

Determine an appropriate type of vehicle necessary for its intended use based upon:

  • Who will be driving it? Make certain to take the driver’s size and needs into account.
  • How many passengers does it need to seat? Ensure there’s enough comfortable and easily accessible seating for its usual passengers.
  • Storage – Will it be hauling cargo? Make sure there’s enough space and doors to allow easy loading and unloading.
  • Where will it be driven? Will it be driven in rugged terrain, on the highway, for suburban or city driving or in winter weather?
  • Will it be used for long drives or short commutes? Consider comfort, gas mileage and size.

Consult sources such as Kelley Blue Book and Craigslist to research and determine what’s available that will suit your needs. This exercise will also give you an idea of the price range of the types of vehicles that meet your criteria. Once you know what’s selling for how much, you can narrow your choices according to what you are willing to spend.

Choosing among used cars

Once you know the ballpark type and price, set about finding the best choice by examining the details of a particular vehicle. You can research the history of a car by getting a Carfax report on it which will inform you if the car you’re considering has:

  • been in a major accident
  • had a mileage rollback
  • had multiple owners (and the length of their ownerships)
    incurred structural damage
  • been used for lease, personal, taxi or police use, or has been state-owned
  • been declared a total loss, junked or salvaged
  • been rebuilt
  • incurred flood or hail damaged
  • experienced airbag deployment
  • had a mileage rollover
  • has been branded a “lemon”

The report will also divulge the:

  • last reported mileage
  • estimated miles driven per year
  • recall information
  • warranty information

Sometimes the seller pays for the Carfax report on the vehicle for sale. If not offered by the seller, you can purchase a Carfax report yourself at a cost of $39.99 for one car or $49.99 for up to five cars.

Once you’re assured the cars you’re considering are basically in good shape, have each assessed by a trusted mechanic to determine these final details:

  • Maintenance record – Has this vehicle been properly and regularly maintained by its owner(s)?
  • Present condition – Overall, how drivable, safe and reliable is this vehicle, as is, here and now?
  • Future maintenance – What will the vehicle require in the foreseeable future – if not now -to keep operating well (like brakes, tires or exhaust system work)?

There’s no reason to expect that, by buying used, that you can’t get a reliable vehicle for a fair and affordable price.

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