When you are in the market to buy a car, there are so many options to consider. Do you buy new or used? What make and model is the best? Should you buy and SUV, car, fuel efficient car? What color of car would be best? Should you buy a car with all wheel drive or not? There are lots of decisions to make. In this article, I am going to go over tips on buying a used car and whether or not it is really worth it.
You may have read our story of when we decided to start our financial freedom journey. If you recall, we sold our 2012 Acadia and bought a big blue 2004 Dodge Durango. We decided we wanted to get as much debt paid off as quickly as we could and we created a schedule for paying off debt. We already had a 2011 Toyota Corolla at the time and we didn’t owe that much on it. We felt it was a reasonable amount of debt to carry until we could pay if off and calculated it in to our debt payoff schedule. The Acadia was expensive and we still owed around $23,000 for the car at the time. We decided to sell that baby for something we could pay off quicker.
Enter Big Blue (my affectionate name for our Durango). The crazy thing about this part of our story is that we ran into the prior owner at the dealership as she having something done on her new car (she traded in the Durango). We talked to her for a while and she mentioned about how that car had been great and she only drove it on Fridays or if the weather was bad. When we bought the car, it had around 50,000 miles on it. Not bad for an 11 year old car. So all in all we were pretty excited to get a deal on the car, we knew that it was well taken care of and we knew that we would be able to pay if off in a few short months.
Well, we have had our share of problems with Big Blue since buying her so I thought it might be helpful for others to learn from our mistakes. I think we have spent $4,000 on that car since buying it…. That is just in maintenance. Learn from us. There are things to consider before buying a used car.
10 Quick Tips on Buying a Used Car:
- Check the Carfax. Carfax gives you a detailed history of the maintenance of the car, if the vehicle has been in any accidents, any recalls and where the car was originally purchased ( just to name a few things found on the Carfax). This is valuable information as it gives you an idea of how well the car was taken care of and if there are any big issues.
- Have a mechanic friend come with you to look at cars. It is always nice to have an opinion from someone who knows more about you especially when you are buying a used car. Your mechanic friend can look at the car to see if there are any major concerns before buying a used car. They also will likely have an idea of which cars are better rated than others.
- Know what the car will cost to maintain. For example, how much will tires cost when they need replaced? How much will an oil change cost? How much will windshield wipers cost? All of these costs add up. If you know ahead of time what the costs will be, there is no element of surprise.
- Check Kelly Blue Book to have an idea of what the car is worth. Go in to the dealership with this information ahead of time so you know you will not be overpaying for a car. This is great information to have when you are buying a used car. No one likes to overpay on anything, right?
- Check Craigslist for cars. And consider looking at these cars with your mechanic friend. You can get some great deals this way.
- Check rental car companies like Enterprise to see if they are selling cars. I had no idea that they even sold cars until I met my husband. He worked there for a while when he was taking some time off from the airline. You can find some great deals through them so be sure to check out the sales side of rental car companies.
- Is there any warranty available for the car. It never hurts to ask. If you are buying a car that is only a few years old, it is possible. When we bought our Toyota, there was a 100,000 mile warranty on it and if we sold it, that would transfer to the new owner. A warranty would be very valuable especially if you are buying a used car.
- How much will it cost in gas for the amount you travel. Do you travel a long distance for work? If you do, think about a fuel efficient car. It will save you money on gas. (We love our Corolla!).
- Do not buy a car that is over 5 years old. This is my personal opinion due to our experience with Big Blue. We needed to buy a bigger car like an SUV or truck because of real estate business and generally these types of cars are more expensive. Next time we buy, I will be looking for a good deal that is 5 years old or less.
- Look at reviews on the cars you like. Checking the reviews may help you in making your decision if you are stuck between a couple different types of cars. Look for general safety, any big problems or recalls for that particular make and model and look for crash testing.
Making a car purchase is a big decision. Buying a used car can be a smart financial decision if you know what you are getting into. Make sure you do your homework before buying a used car. As I mentioned above, Kelly Blue Book is a valuable resource to look at before you buy a car, but it is also helpful when trading in your vehicle. The website will give you an online estimate for how much your current car is worth for trade in based upon make, model, year and overall appearance of the car. We looked at this when we traded in the Acadia.
I still think buying a used car is a great idea and I have no thoughts about ever purchasing a new car because they lose value as soon as you drive them off the car lot. I love not having a car payment, but I have learned some pretty valuable lessons from buying a used car that was 11 years old.
Do you have any other tips when it comes to buying a used car?
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