How to Buy an Affordable and Dependable Used Car

If you know even a little bit about cars, you should know that you should always buy used. Some of the richest people in the world buy used. Why? They know new cars are a waste of money, losing significant value as soon as you drive them off the lot.

When you buy a new car, it depreciates in value by the next day. Within 3 years, it is only worth about 60% of what you paid for it. There is nothing about a new car that makes it worth the extra money.

New Cars are not More Dependable

Just as many problems can occur with a new car as with a used car. Well-maintained used cars can actually have fewer problems than new cars. The biggest difference is that you can’t do anything to prevent manufacturing defects in a new car. Used cars take those problems out of the picture.

What to Look For

But just any used car will not do. If you want a car you can depend on, you’ll need to do a little homework ahead of time. Ideally, you want to find a car with less than 50,000 miles for less than $5,000, which is five times cheaper than buying a new car.

Certified Used Cars

One way to make used car buying easy is to look for certified used cars. Certification comes from either a dealer or the manufacturer. Certified cars have had a professional mechanic go through a detailed checklist inspection to rule out common problem areas.  The certification gives you peace of mind and usually comes with some form of warranty that can last for 30 days up to several years. However, never accept certification in lieu of your own independent inspection, third-party vehicle report, and third-party mechanical inspection.

Inspecting a Car

Once you find a car you might like to buy, take care not to get attached to it before you know if it is the right car for your needs. Walk around the vehicle and note any exterior damage. Check the tires, look under the hood, inspect the interior carefully.

Deal Breakers

Certain defects will warn you to go look for a different car. These include any musty or moldy smells, or electrical smells that might indicate the car has been through flood or fire. Mismatched pain or gaps between panels that are not parallel show the car has been in a significant collision before. If the seller denies any accidents, don’t buy that car. Avoid vehicles that have begun to rust. A little rust spreads quickly into a lot of rust. Test all power features including the radio and CD player or MP3 player. Make sure everything works correctly. These are just a few of the important parts of an inspection. See for a complete tutorial on how to inspect a used car.

If you find defects that are not deal-breakers, use them as bargaining points to get the cost down. Never buy the car the same day you look at it. Have it taken to a mechanic for an objective opinion and get a vehicle report from Carfax. These reports are inexpensive and tell you the full history of the vehicle. Once everything checks out, ask yourself how you feel about the car. Will you be happy with it for at least the next five years?

Lemon Laws

If all the necessary inspections check out, but problems develop after you buy the car, check out federal and state lemon laws. The federal lemon law requires dealers to honor any warranty presented when buying the vehicle. State lemon laws are more specific and can sometimes force a dealer to take the car back for a full refund. In some states, lemon laws even apply to private vehicle sales.