Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips and Reviews

Buyer Beware: Top 3 Reasons Not to Buy Used

So there I was, driving around looking for used cars in Colorado Springs, when I suddenly realized that maybe I should splurge and treat myself to a brand-new car. Not a new-to-me car, but a true, never-been-driven, fresh-of-the-lot spankin’ new whip.

Of course, I needed to justify this purchase. Common knowledge dictates that buying a new car is basically one of the most foolish decisions you can make with your money, what with the car depreciating the minute you drive it off the lot and all that. So I started doing some research and surprisingly, I actually found several good reasons to skip out on the old jalopies. I’ve shared them below to save both you and your wallet a potentially very costly mistake.

Trust No One

I am a trusting soul. I am also a terrible liar, which makes me think everyone else a terrible liar too, although of course that is just not true – some people are amazing at telling a whopper right to your face. And that’s an issue when you’re buying used. You really, really, really want to be sure that you’re buying from someone honest – and this extends to dealerships as well. Yes, there are lemon laws to help you, but do you really want to go through all that hassle?

There are tools to help you on your quest for a used car, and these are to be used religiously: Carfax and the internet. Carfax will give you a history report of your potential new car based off its VIN number. This information is extremely valuable, as it tells you if there have been any major auto accidents or any issues with the title reported. Of course, accidents and issues never get reported, and that’s a risk you’re going to take with buying used. Use the internet to research every last thing you can find out about the car in question – have there been recalls? Does it have good reliability reports? What’s an acceptable resale value? The internet has given us a plethora of tools when it comes to used-car buying: be sure you use them.

Also, be sure to thoroughly check out the car’s interior – do not just give it a glimpse and say it’s all good. The person may not be smoking in front of you, but if they have smoked in that car, chances are the Febreze is going to dissipate and leave you disappointed that you are now driving in someone’s disgusting ashtray on wheels.

If you look at the steps the FTC suggests you take when buying a used car, you have to wonder: what’s my time worth? Although buying a car is never a quick process, when you buy new at least the dealership does 90% of the legwork… you just have to sit there and drink copious amounts of their crappy free coffee while signing your name about a billion times. When you buy used, you’re putting a lot more time and effort into the process.

So reason number 1 not to buy used: if you are a gullible sucker and will believe anything anyone tells you – do not buy used. Just spend the extra cash and get something new with a warranty. Or if you’re lazy like me and would rather just have someone else do all the research and work for you.

Same Cash, Less Car

This is a simple one to sum up and a little more difficult to explain, but ultimately, it may not be cheaper to buy used because some cars just hold on to their value in a vice grip. And if you’re looking at a car like that, then chances are you are better off buying new and holding onto to it yourself. Plus, you’ll get a newer model, which means fresh technology and more modern innovation. Most new cars come with fantastic financing deals, so if you can find one you love and get a good deal on it, put your equity into the new car and when you go to sell it years down the line, you’ll be congratulating yourself on making such a sound investment.

Reason number two not to buy used: you may not actually save any money – and that pretty much defeats the whole purpose of buying used.

If It Ain’t Broke…

If you buy a used car, most likely if it ain’t broke now, it probably will be in the future. Given that most warranties expire after five years, it’s most likely that you’ll be paying for those repairs out of pocket. Car repairs can get real pricey, real fast. Going back to the original point here also – you’re really hoping at this point that the previous owner kept up with all the maintenance and took the car to a good mechanic, otherwise, you can add that to the host of problems that you’re inheriting (well, actually purchasing). Of course, if you buy a pre-owned or certified pre-owned car from a dealership, there may be dealer warranties worth looking into. But be sure to really know what’s covered and what’s not – don’t skip the fine print when it comes to your used car warranty.

Reason number three not to buy used: if you did save money buying used, it might go right down the drain of repairs.

So all of that said, is it a mistake to buy used? No, not necessarily. You just have be smart about it. Use your resources, like Carfax, check this handy list right here from Consumer Reports to find out which cars you should never buy used, and remember to never take anyone at their word. Inspect the car yourself, then get your trusted mechanic to give it a once over. Be sure you know what warranty coverage (if any) you have, and if you aren’t covered, then put a little of that money you saved not buying new into a car repair fund – just in case you need it one day.

Most importantly – if you get that weird pit-in-your-stomach feeling that you get when you’re about to make a mistake (or go down Splash Mountain), then just back away from the deal. It’s okay to change your mind if something feels wrong to you. A car – new or used – is a big investment, and you want to drive off into the sunset feeling sure of yourself and your car.