Type of car – When buying a used car, let your soul speak to you. But try not to let your soul trick you into getting something shiny and impractical. In fact, go ahead and listen to your brain and not your soul. Your brain will pick the safest and most reasonably priced vehicle. If you have a family or are pregnant with triplets, a larger sedan or minivan is probably wisest. If you are towing or hauling a lot, you will want a truck or an SUV. If you are in a mid-life crisis, go for the convertible! Bottom line: there are many things to consider before buying a used car.
Depreciation – Put bluntly, cars might be one of the worst investments out there. They drop in value the minute you drive them off the lot. They can be large purchases that do nothing but go down in value the more you use it and the more time that passes, so when buying one it’s a good idea to make sure you are getting your money’s worth. Try to get a good idea of a particular vehicle’s depreciation before purchasing it, new or used. The Kelley Blue Book is a good reference for finding value. A new car will depreciate very rapidly to start but this rate of depreciation slows as the car ages, which is exactly why buying a good and durable used car can be a better investment in the long run.
Reliability/Safety – A reliable car will last a long time and will not require you to pour hundreds or thousands of dollars into repairs (which add up fast). If you don’t research and consider reliability when buying a used car, you may end up paying more than you would on a new car after all is said and done! But safety takes this one step further. Durability is great, but safety is always the primary concern. Nothing else matters. If the car isn’t safe (or can’t be made safe with repairs), it isn’t worth buying!
Cost versus Value – Obviously price is one of the, if not most, important thing to consider when thinking about purchasing a used car. It’s always ideal to know now your limit going in and to not spend more than that predetermined budget. But it’s also not just about finding the cheapest car; you want value. If you’ve had any basic economics course you would have learned about cost-efficiency and the cost curve. Everything that is wanted/needed from a used car should be weighed against the cost. You can make a graph if you need to!
Private Part versus Dealer – When buying a used car, sometimes you can’t determine where or from whom you will purchase your used car, but if you do have a say, make sure you know with whom you are dealing. You might be able to get a better deal from a private seller but there is more risk involved (see below about risk!); while a dealer might be harder to finagle a lower price, they are generally more reputable with more protection/warranties for you as the buyer.
Condition/Age/History – It’s important to know the condition of the vehicle when buying a used car. You can get a detailed history report with carfax.com. It’s also a good idea get the car inspected by a certified mechanic to find any possible problems that you or carfax could not. Also, the age of the car should be considered, especially the mileage, as well as the type of driving (highway, long-distance, etc) and how often. The best thing to do is to just budget how much you want to spend with how long you want/expect the car to last.
Risk – There is always a risk when buying anything, really, but with a large purchase like a used car, you want to carefully consider the risk involved. You don’t want to buy a lemon, so go into any transaction with as much knowledge as you can. Research, ask questions, and protect yourself as best you can.
Insurance – One of the things many people forget to consider when shopping for a used car is insurance. Once you make the purchase, if you plan on actually driving the car, you will need to buy insurance, and insurance will vary depending on the type of car you purchase and its condition/age. Try not to stretch yourself financially thin without even first considering insurance!
Color – All that matter is you like it! Who care’s what anyone else says?