If you are in the market for a used car, you have a lot to choose from. Modern vehicles tend to stay on the road for many years as they age, and each one has its own unique value based on its age, condition, and total cost of ownership.
So how do you make that choice? Here are a number of key things to keep in mind as you shop.
The Cost of Gas
It might be tempting to drive a behemoth of an SUV or a big modern pickup truck, but you’ll have to factor in your ongoing transportation costs. If you’re not hauling something big or taking a large group of people around town or on the highway, you’re going to be paying a lot at the pump. Increasing gas prices are just part of that equation. Low gas mileage means that you’ll need to fill the big tank often. On the other hand, getting a hybrid or looking for better fuel economy in your vehicle will cut down on how much you need to pay. New fuel economy standards are helping, but that doesn’t prevent buyers from getting something they regret purchasing when fuel costs go up.
Cost of Parts
It’s also important to factor in the cost of getting replacement parts and service for your vehicle.
Do you have a go-to mechanic, or are you taking your car to a dealership?
That has an impact on your finances over time.
You’ll also want to think about whether a particular car brand is more expensive to fix when it comes to OEM or factory standard parts. Some of those higher-tier cars can be more expensive to maintain over time.
Another issue is buying a vehicle that has already gone out of production. That makes parts harder to get, and may drive up the cost. You don’t want to be stuck with a “specialty vehicle” that isn’t very common on the market – at least not unless you want to pay more to maintain it.
You also need to think about insurance coverage for your vehicle. As you shop around
Expensive cars can be harder to ensure. Exotic or luxury vehicles might also trigger a higher car insurance bill.
Assess Your Vehicle’s Emissions System
On a modern vehicle, when the check engine light comes on, it often has to do with the vehicle’s emissions system.
A whole array of expensive parts including catalytic converters and oxygen sensors have to be working exactly the right way to provide the right fuel-air mixture and keep the vehicle operating in a way that doesn’t flag any of the engine sensors and computer components.
One easy way to know if a car’s emissions code has been temporarily turned off is to drive it at least 75 miles. A temporarily turned-off light will reappear. If the check engine light is already on, be sure to check with the seller about why that is.
Inspect the Interior
Some people get so caught up trying to figure out how a used car work that they don’t take the time to look at the interior in detail.
The condition of your upholstery and interior surfaces is important. You don’t have to shortchange yourself to drive a car that has massive problems with seating and interior features. It’s also a good idea to look at the car’s infotainment system, and which features work well, whether that’s related to audio or navigation or anything else.
Check Your Trade-In Value
Can you get money for your existing vehicle? If so, you can factor that into your used car purchase equation. Know that a lot of dealers will only give parts value for trade-ins because they have to do the work of turning that car over and reselling. If you talk to a dealer that offers a good trade-in value, keep that in mind as part of your ultimate decision.
Look for a Clean Title
Some vehicle deals sound too good to be true, and sometimes they are.
Some sellers will try to sell a vehicle with a salvage title or other prior damage on the car’s title. These cars can be more difficult to insure, so check for a clean title as you’re shopping.
All of these great auto shopping tips will help you get the used car that will keep you moving over time. Factor in the total cost of ownership, and think about any warranties or offers that apply.