Buying a Used Car

I’ve heard a lot of excuses about why people won’t buy a used car. They range anywhere from “I need something reliable” or “I got 0% financing so it’s not costing me anything extra.” There are a lot of good reasons to get a used car over a new car though.

  • Borrowing money at 0% is not free. When you buy a new car, it begins losing value as soon as you drive it off the lot. So, if you factor in the value you’re losing, 0% doesn’t look much like zero anymore. When you buy a used car, someone else has already lost a bunch of the value for you.
  • Used cars can be just as reliable as a new car. If you buy a car that is a few years old, you have the advantage of being able to check how reliable that model of car has been across the entire fleet. Consumer Reports does an annual automobile issue that goes back about 6 or 7 years for just about every model to tell you what areas have been good and what areas there have been issues. They also tell you what the best used car is in each segment and whether or not a particular year or a specific model would be a good used car to buy.
  • Getting a used car inspection can keep you from buying someone else’s headache. It shouldn’t normally cost very much to get one (probably less than $100). They can check to see if there are any recalls and look it over to tell if there are issues or if things haven’t been maintained. When we purchased our used Prius, we took it from the dealer we were buying it from to another Toyota dealer to have it inspected. Since Prius cars are kind of unique, we wanted to make sure a certified professional gave us a clean bill of health.
  • Buying a used car could save you a TON of money. Our last two cars we purchased were used. I felt like we didn’t get a great deal on the first one, but we did get it used with only 2300 miles on it. I feel like we almost stole the second one, so that more than makes up for it. (See the story below.)
  • Buying from an individual and paying cash can save you even more. If someone is selling a car for $8000 and you walk up with $7000 cash, you could find yourself driving home in a “new” used car. Cash tells the seller that you’re serious and all they have to do is say yes and the money is theirs.

I want to close with a little story about our last car purchase. We were kind of in a bind when purchasing our last car because we were in an accident that totaled our Corolla. We shopped around and my wife really wanted a Prius. We looked around a bit and decided we didn’t want to spend much over what we were getting from the insurance company since we weren’t planning on buying a car at that time. We found a Prius at a dealer that was originally listed for $16,900, but had been marked down to $13,900 since it had sat on the lot for a while. We drove it and liked it but wanted to try to negotiate a better deal. We weren’t willing to pay $13,900. Anyhow, we left and told the guy we would think about it. We decided that we weren’t willing to pay that much and it had to be cheaper to buy it. The salesman called us a few days later and asked if we were interested and “what it would take to get us to buy it.” I called up my wife and she said she wasn’t willing to pay more than $13,000 and it had to include tax, title, and fees. I called him back and after a little while he returned my call and said that we had a deal. That means that our actual purchase price was around $11,800 before taxes and fees. So the last tip:

  • Have patience when looking for a used car. Our great deal happened because my wife had patience and wasn’t willing to make a decision quickly or sacrifice more money just to close the deal. Our waiting told the dealer that we weren’t desperate, and desperate buyers or buyers with car fever are the ones they love.

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