Buying a used car is one of those things where you can either make out like a bandit, or get royally worked over. As the owner of a previous owned vehicle myself, and a person who comes from a long bloodline of used car owners, the advice I have is based on both my own experiences and that of my family, and this information is practically encoded in my DNA.
Price Matters It seems like there is a vortex for used car value, a Bermuda triangle of car-price-to-quality ratio, if you will. You should buy a used car that is either less than $2,000 or more than $6,000. If you are buying a car in this zone, buyer beware. A car worth less than $2,000 is ok because if you ever run into major repair costs, you just walk away from the car and start over with the next $2,000 car. A car worth over $6,000 is ok too, because it is usually going to be worth the cost of most repairs. Cars that fall between $2,000 and $6,000 range that run into major repairs, all of a sudden can have $2-3 thousand tied up in repair work, and at that point you might as well have spent the extra dough to get the $6,000 car.
Looks Should Not Matter It may sound crazy, but some of the best functioning used cars I have seen people buy have also been the most decrepit looking. If you really want value in a used car, the best way to get it is to sacrifice on the appearance of the car. Think about it, if a car looks great, why is such a steal? Well, the seller may know about some pending doom about to befall the car, and is getting out from under it while there is still time. On the other hand, the beat-up old junkerís owner is usually going to be a straight shooter, since a person who is willing to drive such a shabby automobile obviously has little or no pretense. If you can swallow your pride and give a little love to a clunker, you might be rewarded.
Pros and Cons of Buying From Family I bought a 1973 Buick Centurion from my grandfather for $500 to drive for a summer while I was home from college. It was a great deal cause it only had 63,000 miles on it, and I got it for what my grandfather had paid for it. After returning to college back East, my parents burned up their 1980ís Ford Econoline Van, and they ended up buying my Buick from me. I got the same $500 bucks for it. That is the upside of dealing with family. A lot of the time you can get a really fair shake. The downside, now, is that you are in proximity to your former wheels even though you have no control over the car, and despite the fact that you might have some emotional attachment. I had to watch as my beautiful green boat of a car was subjected to abuse. It was not regularly washed or vacuumed. Then my little brother drove it into a cement post and totally crunched in the side of the car that until that point had been impressively straight given the mint of the car.
Eventually, The Depreciation of Cars Reaches an Asymptote Once a car reaches a certain price it canít really go any lower. If you buy a really cheap car, letís say you get one for $100 bucks (which my brother did just last year), if you decide to sell it your odds of getting $100 bucks back out of it are pretty good.
Be Careful when buying a used car. And just remember that buying a used car is like taking a toss of the dice, which does not mean you should buy a used car in Las Vegas. It means that it is a bit risky!
by Cameron Hatch
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