It is estimated that more than 14 million new cars will be sold in the U.S. this year. If you think that’s a lot, then you haven’t taken a look at the pre-owned car market. It varies month to month, but generally pre-owned car sales are at a three to one ratio over new car sales. Pre-owned car sales in 2012 totaled over 40 million.
Pre-owned car shoppers tend to have different priorities than new car shoppers. Pre-owned cars are more of a choice for budget-conscious consumers. The main appeal of a pre-owned car is that someone else took the hit on depreciation, which is great for the savvy shopper!
Though budget tends to be a primary concern for pre-owned car shoppers, smart buyers know that getting a great deal on a pre-owned vehicle is about more than price. Buying a pre-owned car is really about getting the most vehicle for the money. Most pre-owned car shoppers know to get a vehicle history report, mechanic’s evaluation and to do a thorough test drive on any vehicle they consider, but smart pre-owned car buyers start their shopping by narrowing down their list to just the best pre-owned car models. Here’s how they do it.
5 Things To Look For in a Good
No matter how low the price goes, there is no substitution for performance. A detailed test drive is the best way to determine if you and the vehicle are compatible and if the performance is up to your standards. Not all drivers and all vehicles are meant to be, but when it’s right, you will know! Another great tip is to start reading the reviews from actual drivers, not just the manufacturer blurbs available on the web. Driver’s reviews can give you an insight on how the vehicle holds up over time and what potential issues might arise. A car that drove poorly when it was first released probably hasn’t improved with age, while a car with plenty of power, stable handling and good fuel economy when it was new is likely to remain a decent performer for many years to come.
Just like with performance, a car that had a low-quality, uncomfortable interior when it was new will probably be much worse for wear as a used car. Studying reviews from when a car was new should tell you how many seats there are, if they’re comfortable and what kinds of materials are used in the making of the interior. Reviewers also often mention if they think the materials should hold up well over time. You’ll also get actual dimensions for things like cargo and passenger space, which a lot of used car sellers might simply describe as “big.”
Reliability is one of the most important factors used car buyers look for. Just from surveying our own Chuck Fairbanks family, we know that a great price is wonderful, but if the vehicle isn’t reliable a customer isn’t going to want to drive it home, much less let their children drive it. The most reliable models, however, may not be the ones that first come to mind. There are several brands that do well with dependability, but still face challenges with consumer perception. Savvy shoppers should do their due diligence and research brands with an open mind.
Though individual pre-owned cars will vary, it’s easy to find reliability ratings for how dependable a specific model has been over the years. J.D. Power and Associates rates cars that are three years old or older in its Vehicle Dependability Study, which tracks mechanical problems reported by car owners. For newer cars, J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study measures problems experienced by vehicle owners in the first months of ownership. These two studies are valuable tools available for consumers.
Smart pre-owned car shoppers know that sacrificing safety to save money is a bad move. New vehicle models undergo strenuous testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You can use these ratings to determine how safe a vehicle is likely to be in the long run and whether or not you would be interested in looking further into this type of vehicle. Beyond looking for strong crash test ratings from when the car was new, look for safety features like electronic stability control and side curtain airbags.
Finally, a pre-owned vehicle doesn’t make much sense as a budget proposition if it’s expensive to own. A car’s operating cost is how much it will cost to actually use the car and includes things like fuel, maintenance and repair costs. Finding the best pre-owned car means not only finding one with a price that fits your budget, but also one with operating costs that you can afford over the long haul. You might get a great deal on a car with an opulent interior, sporty performance and excellent safety ratings, but if the maintenance costs are going to overspend your budget, it’s not the best car for you.
The perfect pre-owned vehicle for you is out there, it might not be at the dealership the first time you take a spin around the lot. The Pre-owned market is a fast moving machine with a lot of parts. Don’t be afraid to let the sales team know what you are looking for and they should be able to steer you in the right direction. If you aren’t crazy about the choices on the lot the first time, come back in a few days! People trade in great cars every single day! Someone could be trading in your next vehicle right now!