When it comes to saving money, hands down, buying a used car is the best option when you need to purchase a vehicle. Not only do used cars costs less, but they don't depreciate as fast as new cars, so you're less likely to end up underwater on your auto loan. However, you must be careful when shopping for a used vehicle or you could end up with a lemon that drains your bank account. Here are three tips for ensuring you get a great used vehicle that will serve you well.
Choose a Model Known for Durability
Although humans and cars are as different as night and day, there's one area where they are similar: some age better than others. While the way owners treat vehicles does factor into their durability, some cars come out of the factory more readily able to handle the ravages of time. By choosing a model vehicle that's well-known for its longevity, you significantly reduce the risk of getting a lemon.
For example, both Toyotas and Hondas have been known to hit 200,000 miles and still keep on ticking. So, you're less likely to experience trouble with a used Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. If trucks are more your thing, then Ford's F-150 is one of the company's most durable vehicles, though you will have to be careful and choose a good year.
You can find quite a few lists online that detail which cars are the most reliable (e.g. JD Power Ratings and Research). It's a good idea to peruse at a few of these lists to get an idea of the type of cars you should be looking at when you go used car shopping. Write out a list of preferred vehicles to take with you to dealerships to help you stay on track.
Get a Vehicle History Report
Regardless of which model vehicle you decide on, be sure to obtain a vehicle history report on the car before you sign the sales slip to take ownership. These reports can tell you a lot about what the car has been through and whether or not it will be a good buy.
For instance, vehicle history reports can tell you whether the car has been flooded, an important issue considering the many vehicles that were damaged during the severe weather events in Texas and Florida. Although vehicles that have been flooded are typically totaled by insurance companies and taken off the, some end up getting sold to new owners and occasionally dealerships. Even if the vehicle title doesn't say it was flooded, knowing that it was last located in a hurricane-ravaged area can help you avoid purchasing a vehicle that could potentially be a lemon.
Most used car dealerships will provide you with vehicle history reports for the cars you're thinking about buying. Don't worry, though, if the dealership doesn't offer this service. You can purchase your own vehicle history reports through a variety of companies, including CarFax and even your local DMV.
Get a Vehicle Inspected by a Mechanic
Lastly, be sure to get the vehicle inspected by a mechanic, preferably by someone you trust. Since you can't return a used vehicle after you've purchased it, it's best to take that person along with you when you are car shopping so he or she can tell you on the spot whether there are problems with the vehicle you should be aware of.
However, many auto repair shops do pre-purchase inspections, though you can expect to pay around $100 for the service. Thus, you'll want to wait until you've narrowed down the prospects to one or two cars to save money.
For help finding the right used car for you, contact a local dealership.