Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A grey Ford is shown driving down the street with blurred building in the background.

It’s My $10,000, So What Do I Do With It?

Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money to most people. That’s why it is a frequent prize amount on game shows and even lottery tickets. It is a nice round figure that looks good on paper and even better in a checking account. And it has a nice ring to it – ten thousand, ten grand, 10k. Whatever you choose to call it, $10,000 can go a long way for anybody. You might not be able to buy a house with it, but it is a great sum for auto shopping. You can definitely get used cars priced under 10k.

A vehicle is one of the most important, and expensive, investments that the average person can make. Other than a home, not many other necessary purchases can even come close to five figures. Most people don’t need a boat or a private plane, but most people do need a reliable vehicle to get to work, school, the grocery store or just running day to day errands. With ten thousand dollars, you could be well on your way to getting those necessary wheels.

One of the inherent problems, though, is that in today’s auto industry, any new car will run you more than $10,000. Some will cost more than $100,000, but that’s a different story for a different day. Even the least expensive new cars for 2019 run a little more than $15,000, which means you are still only two-thirds of the way there. So what do you do with our ten grand? You look into used cars.

Choose The Dealership Wisely

Here is where it gets tricky. For decades, the stereotype of the used car salesman and used car lot have frightened would be buyers. The idea of a sleazy, unethical salesman knowingly passing off a dud of a vehicle for top dollar has been widespread throughout movies and television. Some do it as a comedic caricature (Cadillac Man) some do it is as a plot device (Fargo), but the representation of used car dealers as less than honest is far more prevalent than them as honest, hardworking salesmen and saleswomen.

A salesman is showing a clipboard with used cars priced under 10k to a couple.

This type of affectation tends to turn people off from used car lots. The truth is, you really don’t know what you are getting with most used cars. Vehicle incident reports, maintenance histories, and other documentation have made it a little less risky in recent years, but those may not always be completely accurate, whether intentional or not. With a new car, you know for a fact that it is in pristine condition, with only a handful of miles on it, mostly from test drives. With a used car, you pretty much have to take the seller’s word on it. That can be scary, especially since the media has conditioned us to be mistrustful of these people.

Do Your Research

The truth is that these types of people do exist, but they are in a vast minority to the honest, ethical salesmen that make up the tens of thousands of used car dealerships across the country. The bad ones for whom the stereotype is actually reflective have made life difficult for the 99% of the ones who are good. So, it is important to know just who you are getting into a business relationship with if you do decide to go used car shopping.

One way to get to know your prospective used car dealer is to ask around about them. Find out if any friends or family have purchased a car through this dealership before. The huge corporate chains depend on mass marketing to drive business, but the smaller used car lots depend more on local marketing, which includes word of mouth. If you can find some testimonials from people you know and trust, you can begin to gauge the kind of business that they run.

Nowadays, even small businesses have web pages. Many of these webpages and sites have consumer reviews on them. While the content on these pages might be edited to skew in favor of the dealership, you will still find some useful reviews on there, particularly in the ones that aren’t rated 5/5 or 10/10 for service. Those might be the more honest testimonials.

Know the Truth

Another way to look at customer reviews is through websites like Yelp! These websites are not moderated by the dealership and tend to have more straightforward and trustworthy content. However, as with any popular website or app, there will be trolls who have nothing better to do with their time than to trash local businesses for no good reason.

Once you have done your due diligence and selected a used car dealer, make sure you are thorough in your selection. Your ten grand is your ten grand to make an intelligent, informed investment. You do not want to hastily buy the first used car you see on the lot. You may very well end up coming back to it, but at least then you will know what else is out there.

Utilize the documentation that is available for the used car. Companies like CarFax are an excellent resource for finding out the vehicle’s history. If that used car you have your eye on was involved in a wreck that was reported, it will be in the vehicle’s history, as will any proper repairs done to it. Anything that seems out of place should immediately make you question the validity of the deal. Remember, it is only CarFax’s obligation to document the vehicle’s history. It is up to you to make sure that said history is up to your standards.

A blue toy car is on a laptop next to car keys.

Certified Pre-Owned

If you are still a little skittish about the used car option, consider a certified pre-owned vehicle. Every major automaker has a certified pre-owned program, and many have car options in the $10,000 and less range. A certified pre-owned vehicle has undergone an extensive inspection by engineers of the respective automaker. These engineers check everything on and about the vehicle, top to bottom, bumper to bumper. They follow an exhaustive checklist to ensure everything about the car is up to their very high standards. This process also includes a vehicle history report and a test drive.

If the car passes this inspection process, it will be deemed a certified pre-owned vehicle. That gives the buyer peace of mind that it is a quality vehicle that is nearly as good as a new vehicle. It comes with a warranty that you will not get with any other used car program. The warranty, as well as other perks, such as concierge service, will vary based on the automaker.

As we said, many automakers have certified pre-owned vehicles available for under ten grand. These are not knockoffs, either. We are talking about Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, Toyota… all the major players both American and international. These vehicles can be as new as a 2018 model year or from early in the 2010s decade. Either way, with a certified pre-owned vehicle, you are getting a quality car for a fraction of the price of a new one.

It’s Your Money, Not Theirs

Never forget, your 10k is yours to spend, so spend it wisely. Investing in a used car priced under 10k is a wise decision, but it is only the start. You have a lot to consider when choosing this investment path, so make sure you do your homework, so your $10,000 doesn’t go to waste.