So, the family car has finally given up the ghost and you need to find another ride.
You could buy new. But with the average price of a 2016 model chiming in at $34,000, according to auto information website TrueCar, showroom-fresh might not be in the budget.
Thankfully, it has probably never been easier to find a quality used car. Just follow the expert tips below, and you should be back to hauling the kids to hockey practice in no time.
Weigh Age against Price
Buying a used car is all about finding a balance between price and reliability, says Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights at TrueCar. Too new, and a vehicle will be expensive. Too old, and it could require several repairs. That’s why he recommends targeting cars that are around three years old. Chances are they’ll be in good shape and could cost up to 40 percent less than their newer counterparts.
Get an Independent Mechanic to Have a Look
It’s the cardinal rule of buying a used car: don’t plunk down your money until an independent mechanic inspects it. If you know a technician, bring them along to the used car lot, says Mike Peth, director of curriculum at Ohio Technical College, which specializes in auto repair. Otherwise, ask the dealer if you can drive the car to your garage of choice. Often, a comprehensive checkup will cost as little as $100. If the dealer says no, be suspicious, says Peth.
Consider a Certified Used Car
Does the prospect of expensive repairs make you nervous? Then look for a certified pre-owned vehicle. These cars are inspected by dealers, but must pass inspections that are determined by manufacturers and come with extended warranties. You’ll pay a premium, but you also won’t have to worry about paying for a new transmission a year from now.
“Certified pre-owned vehicles hit the sweet spot between value and reliability,” says Lyman.
Do Your Homework
Back in the day, figuring out the value of a used car could be difficult. But the GEICO Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar, makes that process a breeze. The used car inventory and pricing draws from 11,000 dealers across the country “There is no substitute for accurate and up-to-date pricing,” says Lyman. Also, check out websites like Carfax, which uses the VIN to tell you whether the car you’re looking at has been in an accident. If it has, be wary.
Don’t Get Emotional
As with any major purchase, Peth says it’s important to think with your head and not your heart. Try to avoid fixating on a certain model or color. Read reviews online and aim for cars that have a history of reliability. And don’t overlook obvious problems just because you like the look of a vehicle. Never say “I gotta have that car,” says Peth. You don’t want to be satisfied with a new-to-you car in the moment only to regret having to drive it for years to come.
Shopping around for a car? Use the GEICO Car Buying Service to get upfront pricing information from Certified Dealers. That means you’ll save time and money! Plus, every reported purchase from a TrueCar Certified Dealer comes with extra benefits including Auto Deductible Reimbursement. See how much you could save on your new or used vehicle.
By Andrew Raven