Japanese automakers have earned a well-deserved reputation for building a wide range of quality automobiles that fit any budget and, as “pre-owned” vehicles, good Japanese used cars are in high demand. If your mind is set on buying a used Japanese car, consider a few important points before making a purchase.
Though most Japanese brands receive high marks for reliability, resale value and fuel economy, those factors put Japanese automobiles at the high end of the used car market. For some models, prices are often inflated by reputation alone. Shoppers should be flexible about which makes and models are actually the best buys. Some of the most popular Japanese models offer less value, dollar for dollar, than more affordable alternatives with the same features, performance and equipment.
The upper scale of the Japanese used car market includes Lexus, Infiniti and Acura. Much lower prices for cars in the same class can be expected for such brands as Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Nissan. The difference in cost for the less expensive types does not necessarily indicate satisfaction or quality in a used car. Some used Japanese models fetch higher prices due to demand when the car was new or because the car has high owner loyalty. Suburu, for instance, enjoys a large following of dedicated owners who are not likely to switch to another make. Unless you are determined to shop for one particular Japanese brand, compare other cars in the same league which may prove to be better bargains.
Almost every Japanese car has a rival for the same market. Japanese manufacturers are very competitive with each other, so no successful model remains unchallenged for long. The Honda Accord, one of the top contenders on the used car lot, faces off against Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Mazda 6 and the Mitsubishi Galant. Though similarly priced when new, as used cars these different models differ in price by a wide margin. Generally, the Honda and Toyota hold higher resale values than the others, but bargains are hard to find.
Nissan Altimas are the preferred choice of leasing companies and rental agencies, which means a large selection of well-maintained, low-mileage Altimas turn up at used car dealerships. All leased vehicles tend to have basic equipment and features typical of “company” cars purchased on a thrifty corporate budget, which means good deals for used car buyers. Mitsubishi and Suzuki models tend to have lower resale values because these brands have not established a status equal to other Japanese makes.
The best place to begin shopping for used Japanese cars is the dealerships that sell new Japanese cars. New car dealerships “cherry pick” the best trade-ins for their own lot and wholesale out the rest. Look only for later model Japanese cars on new car lots and expect higher prices. All new car dealers, regardless of make or nationality, will carry a few used Japanese cars. Expect the best deals from a dealership carrying several Japanese cars of the same make and model on the lot.
Buying a Japanese car from an individual means doing a little research. Ask the owner about the car’s mileage, maintenance records and optional equipment then give this information to a bank or loan company to find out what the car is worth. Used car values and reviews can also be found at auto.com.