Simple steps to get a great deal on a reliable used car

Buying a new car is just like throwing cash out the window! The problem is, a lot of people don’t want to fool with buying a used vehicle, because it requires a few more steps. However, if you’re willing to put just a little effort into it, there are great tools available today that allow you to get a great deal on a reliable used car!

Why you should buy a used car

Before we get into the steps you should follow, let’s touch on why buying new is a bad idea if you’re looking to get a deal. The primary reason is something called depreciation. According to current depreciation rates, a new vehicle can lose up to 10% of its value in the first month alone. In the first year, it can lose up to 30%. Then, for the next four years, the car can lose roughly 10% of its value each year.

So, after one year — even more so after two, three, four, five years — you’ve lost a ton of money! The reason this happens is because mileage, age and other factors take a toll on your vehicle — making it worth less over time. Since the biggest impact of depreciation happens within the first five years, if you plan to keep it up to say eight years or so, you’ll get your money’s worth. However, the average length of time people keep a new car is only about six years.

So, where’s the sweet spot? Buying a used car that’s about five years old is where you’ll find the best price point. Depending on the make and model, you can find some great deals after only three years — it just takes a little research.

When you’re ready to start the process of buying a used car, follow these simple steps to get the best deal on a reliable vehicle you love!

Steps to buying a reliable used car

1) Get your financing done before you start shopping

This will give you a set budget and price range, so you don’t fall in love with a car you can’t afford.

2) Research the cost of specific brands and models

Start doing some research into what certain brands and models cost to maintain. This will give you an idea of how much you’ll be paying out of pocket over time. Things to consider are type of fuel, costs of regular maintenance and repairs, whether the brand requires special parts specific to the make of the vehicle and more. You also want to consider your specific needs — things like how much space you need, if you want a sun roof etc.

The idea is to choose a car that’s cheaper to maintain over time. I chose a Lexus, because it can take cheaper parts and I’m not stuck going to the dealership for every repair.

Check out the used car buying guide from Consumer Reports to get an idea of reliability rankings and other costs you should consider.

3) How to reduce your risks

When you buy a used car, you buy it as is. That means if the car has any problems, they immediately become your problems. To reduce your risks, look for a used car with low mileage and a clean Carfax report, which means the vehicle hasn’t been in any accidents.

4) Get the car inspected by a mechanic of your choosing

The seller may offer a report from his mechanic, but you need to get the car inspected by your own mechanic. That way if there are issues that weren’t discovered or disclosed, your guy can figure it out. This reduces the chances that you get a car that causes you problems down the road.

5) Where to find the best deals

Don’t walk into a car dealership and buy a car for sticker price. Don’t believe the guy who says you’re “getting a great deal!” You need to do your own research on prices to determine what you know is actually a good deal.

There are a lot of great websites that will do most of the work for you. They’ll show you historic pricing so you know what’s a good deal, send you price-drop alerts, check the Carfax report and more.

Check out these websites to compare prices on used cars:

6) Go for a test drive

You want to make sure you actually enjoy driving the car! Plus, this will allow you to get a good feel for the vehicle and determine if it runs and drives well.

Alex Thomas