Buying a Good Used Car

If there is one thing that makes people more squeamish than getting up to speak in front of a group of people, it is buying a used car. Pass the Maalox, we all could be in for a night full of indigestion and pain. But the fact is some of today’s smartest vehicle shoppers are buying used vehicles that serve them (and their bank accounts) very, very well. Many auto-buying experts agree: There has never been a better time to buy a used car.

There are several factors working in favor of the used-car buyer. The first of these is quality. They say they don't make 'em like they used to? That's correct: They make 'em much better. Today's new vehicles are the best-designed, best-built, most reliable vehicles in history, and that means that today's one-, two-, three- and four-year-old used cars are the best in history as well. Though they are certainly more complicated than the cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s, today's vehicles have staying power. So if you buy a car that is, say, three years old, it should give you a half decade or more of good service. Of course, it will require some preventive maintenance and some repairs, but in terms of cost-effectiveness, it will be about as good as you can get for your transportation dollar.

Depreciation is another key reason that today is a great time to buy a used car. You know what the number one cost of owning a new car is in the first five years of ownership? That's right. Depreciation. You don't write a check for the loss in value your vehicle is suffering every day, and it doesn't show up in your bank statement, but it hits you in the wallet hard. For example, over the course of five years, a new car might drop as much as 60 percent in value. So your spanking new 2008 model year Chariot will be worth only a fraction of its original cost in 2013. What this means is if you buy a three-year-old vehicle, you can avoid a significant amount of depreciation cost, because your initial cost is lower and depreciation slows over time.

One last bit of good news: The increasing popularity of leasing virtually guarantees that there will be a steady supply of high-quality, well-maintained two- and three-year-old cars to choose from when you decide to buy. These days, about one quarter of all new vehicles is leased as is well more than 50 percent of luxury cars. And many brands would love to help you slide your posterior into a formerly leased vehicle, and they will offer you nice incentives to do so.

A wide variety of car manufacturers have put together special programs to add value to their used car offerings in the form of certified used car programs. While plans differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, virtually all of them have strict criteria for vehicles that may be included. Those vehicles are then thoroughly inspected, brought up to specs and backed by a warranty. Special financing deals are also often available.

The Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) coverage usually mimics that of the original new-car warranty, so if you fear buying somebody else's troubles, the plans from a wide variety of manufacturers should alleviate that worry. So look for factory-backed certified vehicle programs, and you might find that your best vehicle value ever is a used car.