With used cars more reliable than ever, the choice often boils down to money.
There’s nothing like that new-car smell. Buying a new car has a lot of allure: It’s brand new and it’s all yours; nobody has abused it. You can get the vehicle equipped just the way you want, and you get the full factory warranty. But hold on. Your best deal could well be a late-model used car.
The used-car market has changed dramatically in the past few years. To start with, today’s new cars — and thus used cars — are simply made better. Overall quality and durability has increased as U.S. manufacturers pushed hard to catch up to imports. A second factor is the rise of leasing.
New used-car superstore chains are also making it easier than ever to buy with huge inventories and no-haggle shopping. The kicker is that if you opt for a 3-year-old model instead, you could save as much as 30% to 40% over new.
In the last few years, car dealers, backed by manufacturers, have introduced what they call “certified” used-car programs for newer used cars (usually up to 3 years old). Manufacturers insist that a used car must pass a series of inspections before it can become certified. And once a car passes, the manufacturer adds a fresh warranty, sometimes 12 months or more.
If you want a used car, start by checking prices of the vehicles that interest you. Among the best websites are Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com. Both are free, and both will let you check the going prices for almost every make, model and year you could want. (Both sites list new-car prices as well.)
Sites like Autotrader.com and Cars.com list classified ads for used cars, mostly from dealers. Enter your zip code and you’ll get a selection of cars within 100 miles or so of your home. While ads for these same vehicles undoubtedly also are running in your local paper, you get more detail online.
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