I recently did a quick write-up with my opinions on why such great used cars can be purchased so cheap. It’s a relatively new fad, and it’s not going anywhere. But what if you want said cheap, great car, and you don’t know where to start?
Craigslist, eBay and Autotrader can be intimidating. Here are six easy-to-follow tips to ensure you buy something appropriate and worthwhile.
So what do I look for?
- Buy something popular.
Obviously, if a whole bunch of people have decided that a car is good enough for them, it’s probably good enough for you, too. Typically, any European car will be more expensive to maintain in the long run, so it’s harder to make the claim that they’ll be a good ‘value’ and I personally wouldn’t recommend one unless you really know what you’re doing.
- Buy something that’s been around for a while.
It’s fair to assume that if a car has made it through multiple life-cycles, it must sell well enough to have some positive attributes. If you’ll note, the Chrysler PT Cruiser only lasted one generation before its death. So take that as you will.
- Don’t be afraid of higher mileage, or restrict your search based on year.
A common trap that prospective car buyers fall goes something like this: “Someone told me all cars have problems after 100,000 miles, so I’m only going to buy something with 99,995 miles or less.” In actuality, miles driven is just one of many factors that need to be taken into consideration, and they need to be considered in the proper context. This is something to be mindful of, but its really only valuable information if it can be proven, which brings me to my next point.
- Buy a one-owner car if you can.
This concept is a little more ethereal. Even if a car doesn’t have its service history (something else that can add value), it is significantly more likely that a car was better maintained if it is being sold by the person who originally purchased it. There are a few reasons for this, and the most important is socioeconomic. Someone who had the means to purchase a brand new car at the time is much more likely to give it the care that it deserves, and is more likely to become habitual with this care.
- Don’t buy salvage or rebuilt-titled cars.
I get it. They’re always cheaper, and they always look clean. The ads usually say “salvage because of a fender bender,” or some BS about a theft. But they aren’t. Those are lies. Almost always. Cars get a salvage designation on their title for a reason, and they will always be a headache. Don’t even think about it. No matter what.
- Always, always get a car inspected by your mechanic.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve seen. It doesn’t matter what they’ve said. You must get a car looked at by a mechanic that you trust. No car is worth making an uneducated purchase because you’re worried about losing the opportunity. It can be okay to purchase a car that’s been in an accident, but it’s very important that you get credible information about the details of the wreck. Some are bad, some are not, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
Really, that’s all there is to it. Buying a car is not rocket science, but it’s intimidating and it can be easy to feel like you’re in over your head. If you follow these steps and do your own research, you’ll be just fine. People get great deals on cars all the time, and you can be one of them. Please reach out to me on twitter or in the comments with any questions that you have and I’ll do my best to help! I don’t do this for a living, but I’d sure like to.