Whether it’s because of financial woes or you just need an affordable secondary car there are plenty of options to choose from when you want to buy a cheap used car. The belief that used cars in the lower price range are close to retiring in the big junkyard in the sky isn’t always true. Granted, you aren’t going to get a high performance sports car with low miles for a few thousand dollars, but it’s still easy to find a set of sensible and reliable wheels. All you need is a realisitic attitude, some patience, and caution.
Below is a guideline of how to find the best car that will be easy on your pocketbook.
Budget – The whole reason that you’re looking at cheap used cars is because of a tight budget. Know how much your spending limit is and remember to factor in taxes and registration fees upon purchasing the car. With your sepnding maximum in your mind you’ll feel more confident when it comes time to negotiate.
Research – The old saying that “knowledge is power” is very true here. There will be a vast array of models from a span of years that you’ll be looking at and their reliability ratings will be just as diverse. The goal is to find which cars are affordable on the market and will give you little trouble. Some models can be very unreliable when they were first introduced and will improve over the years as the bugs are ironed out. Resources such as Consumer Reports and Edmunds have used car reliability ratings online and in publications.
Search – The Intermet is your best companion when looking for a car. Sites such as Carsdirect, Autotrader, and Craigslist allow you to narrow your search to the price limit, miles, features, and even the color.
Options – The cars available will for sale from different types of sellers. Few new car dealerships carry low priced used cars but may occasionally sell a low mileage or well-treated one. These ones are worth considering as a new car dealership will occasionally offer a warranty and won’t run the risk of ruining their reputation over a cheap, older car. There are plenty of used car dealerships to choose from and some can be reputable and others are very shady. You can always check with the BBB if you unsure. Many of the cars you’ll find come from private sellers. These are the people who have owned the car and will know more about the history than a dealership will. Private sellers can be just as risky as well, but often they aren’t professional negotiators and you may get a better price from them.
History – It’s good to know the history of an older car. Carfax is a service that keeps records for every car and will inform you of any accidents or defects it has had. The monthly subscription is well worth it. Ask the seller for the VIN#. If they are hesitant to do so, it may be a red flag. While you’re online, check with Kelley Blue Book to make sure the asking price is fair.
Inspection – Most cheap used cars are going to have some mechanical or cosmetic defects. It’s ultimately up to you if the issues are bad enough to annoy you or be a deal breaker. Make sure that the car’s wear matches the mileage. If the car has low mileage, but the pedals have worn or the engine has trouble it may be a sign of odometer rollback. It’s always a good idea to have mechanic inspect the car especially if it doesn’t come with a warranty.
Purchase – Most dealerships will take care of the registration procedures (not the costs though) and have the title transferred to your name. A private seller will generally accept only cash and they will need to sign over the title over to you. This may require a visit to the DMV or in California, AAA offers DMV services.
It is still very possible to find well-kept bargains out there. The reward of your patience will be a trustworthy car that will make little impact on your wallet.