How to buy a used car. Part 2
Choosing the right car
You won’t get a good deal if you just browse from a dealer to dealer without knowing what kind of car you are looking for. Once you know your budget, the next step is to narrow your choice down to a few makes and models. Consider your daily driving needs and decide what is important to you, what features you need in a car. Do you commute long distances to work? Then you probably want your car to be cheap on gas. Are snowy roads common where you live? You might want your car to have the anti-lock brakes (ABS). Do you like long weekend trips? You probably need your car to have a cruise control. However, be realistic; don’t limit yourself with one particular feature. For instance, If you are looking for only a 4WD wagon for occasional outdoor trips and your budget is under $5,000, your choice might be very limited, but you might be able to find quite a few small or mid-size sedans for this price that also can suit your purpose.
Once you have an idea what kind of car you want, search the Autotrader and see what is available for sale within your price range. Try to avoid first-year models, as they usually have more glitches. Write down your possible choices and compare their gas mileage, reliability, safety ratings and other features; read reviews, research common problems and complaints. Read more: what to research when deciding on a used car. This will allow you to narrow your search to just a few makes and models.
Cost of insurance
The cost of insurance varies a lot depending on the make, year and model of the car, driver’s experience and many other factors. I definitely recommend getting insurance quotes before buying a car. Follow these links for auto insurance quotes:
What mileage is OK for a used car
In general, I would not recommend buying a car with a very high mileage. To put it into numbers, more than 155,000 miles or 250,000 km is probably too much; however, a “low mileage” does not mean “a good car.” Of course, the less miles, the better, but don’t put too much value on the mileage alone without considering other factors like mechanical condition, options, reliability, how well the car was maintained, etc. I’ve seen many ‘bad’ low-mileage cars: some restored after accidents, others poorly cared for and some even with their odometer rolled back, which is still happening, even though it’s illegal. Again, checking the used car history records can help you avoid this kind of lemons.
When considering between cars of different brands, again the one with 50,000 miles but with proven reliability could be a better choice than the other one with 40,000 miles, but with poor reliability records.
How old is not “too old”?
I would not recommend buying an old car even at a “bargain” price, especially if you live in the Rust Belt where rust is a big problem. No matter how many new parts you put into an old car, it will still be an old car that will need more and more repairs later. I’d say, avoid anything older than twelve-fifteen years, or older than ten years If you live in the Rust Belt. A perfect choice will be a three to five year old car because the price is greatly reduced and you will still have a few trouble-free years of driving.
One important detail: what is listed in the ad is a model year, not the production year. A car produced in July 2007 could be listed as a 2008 model, but the car produced in June 2008 can also be a 2008 model that is almost a year difference. Check the date when the car was manufactured. You can check for the first registration date in the used car history report or check the manufacturer’s label. Read more how to check it in our illustrated used car checklist.