Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A row of used cars are shown.

Why Buying Used Is the Smarter Choice

Car prices seem to soar ever higher as the features get more and more complex. The tech can be nice when you want to connect your phone to listen to the audio or enjoy that built-in satellite navigator, but some of those other features come with a hefty price tag. When you go cruising through the vehicles on lots these days, it can make your wallet pucker. Rather than shell out enough cash for a down payment on a house, it’s not a bad idea to consider buying a used car. Why used cars? Because truthfully, your car loses value the minute you drive it off the lot.


Cars depreciate. That’s the way of the market, and it’s understandable when they can take a beating. We do a lot to our cars when we drive them daily, especially if we live in places where roads are salted, or if you own a work vehicle that you drive thousands of miles every month. We can’t expect cars to retain value when we put them through the wringer on the roads, but there are plenty of drivers who take good care of their cars before they trade up for a newer model. Think about those grandparents who only tootle up the block for groceries or the post office, putting only a few thousand miles on their cream puff-colored sedan before trading it in for something newer.

Lots of people can afford to buy new cars with a sizable income, and make a point of trading up after one or two years. You can benefit from those kinds of trades, but you don’t have to pay the price of the new car to get slightly used. Instead, you can shave thousands off the price of a nice car that might even still smell new. Sure, these cars aren’t always easy to find, but it’s worth taking a look at used models just in case you come across that deal of the century. Somebody has to be the lucky duck who walks away with those keys.


A woman is holding money while screaming in excitement about saving money.

On the other hand, if you’re a broke college student who needs a car so you can get to your third job across town, a used car is your best bet. Honestly, for $5K, you might be surprised what you can find. It doesn’t have to break the bank to have a decent used car that’s reliable. In today’s internet extravaganza of options, you don’t even have to put on pants; you can search for and buy a car online in your underwear. Seriously, it’s never been easier to look up used cars online, view all the specs, find the Kelley Blue Book value, and then even get a loan for that baby if you want.

Be Smart

If you do choose to buy a used car, it’s generally a good idea to get either your own mechanic or someone you trust with good car knowledge to give the car a once-over. This cuts back on the chances that you’re getting a car with potential problems that will become costly to fix, and you can also get advice about models or makes you’ve never owned. Even if a car gets inspected prior to the sale, if it isn’t your mechanic or trusted advisor, you might miss something important. Be safe, not sorry.

Before you head to the computer to start perusing, make sure you have a good idea of what kind of car you need or want to drive. A little research can go a long way to finding out what cars make better purchases as used vehicles. Every dealer wants you to believe all their cars are the best available, but everyone knows that some cars hold up to time better than others. This is just as true for luxury cars as entry-level sedans. Make time to look up the types of cars that require little maintenance over time, have good ratings for wear and tear, or hold up well under the conditions of where you live and need to drive

The Right Car for You

Consider what type of vehicle is going to serve you best. Really think about the reasons you need a car, not just any old car. If you plan to drive solo between distant cities for long commutes, is it really a good idea to buy a massive SUV? Think about how much you’ll dump into the gas tank. Then again, if you know you need to transport half the baseball team to out-of-town games every week, that big SUV is starting to look like the better option.

In some cases, going used might be the only way to afford that luxury car you always wanted. A used Lexus or BMW might be on your list of cars you wish you could have, but your bank account keeps telling you “no can do.” This is where the used car dealer becomes your best option. Certain luxury cars have low depreciation rates, but you can still count on them knocking several thousand off the price of a new vehicle when it’s only been driven by another person for a year or two. When that doctor drives his nearly new Mercedes into the dealer for his very new replacement, you hit the jackpot.

A smiling couple is standing in front of their new to them used car.

This same principle goes for sports cars, too. Rather than fork out for a new fast ride, save on the purchase price by buying used. If you’re a motorhead, you could even look for a classic and land a great deal on a muscle car from generations long past. You need to be a decent mechanic or have someone in your back pocket to call if you need a tune-up, but it can be fun to hit the streets with a classic car to make enthusiasts drool. Again, a little research goes a long way, so do your homework before going this route.

Research Goes a Long Way

One of the biggest advantages of being an online world is that you can now look up almost anything. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find a lot of certain cars for sale because certain dealerships in the region sell a lot of the same types of cars. This may give you an advantage to know about the options you can expect to find in your area since people often like to return their cars to the dealerships who sold them. This could mean you might find that car either much cheaper because they have so many, or it may still be pricey because it holds value.

Take the time to determine whether or not the car is worth buying before the sale. Make sure you use Kelley Blue Book or look up VIN numbers if you can. Knowing the history of a car is smart buying, especially if you don’t have the advantage of a mechanic to look it over before you purchase. But let’s be honest: even new cars have trouble. Lemons happen, and it’s not just used cars that can be money pits. If you buy smart, used cars can be just as reliable as new, especially if you take good care of it. Due diligence with regular maintenance goes a long way.

Used cars have been given a bad rap for way too long. Smart buyers have learned that between depreciation values and the availability of pre-owned “nearly new” cars, you can drive a really nice vehicle for far less than you might believe. Take the time to search for used cars in your area, and you might be surprised by what you find. Have a little fun with it, and maybe look up your dream car. It might just be waiting for you on a nearby lot.