Shopping for used vehicles can be an overwhelming and frustrating experience versus purchasing new. With new vehicles, customers can easily access the market suggested retail price (MSRP) for the model they're interested in and count on an odometer reading of near-zero, assuring no road wear or previous maintenance history.
This is not so with a used vehicle. Used vehicles come with a wide range of factors customers must consider before purchase, from overall mileage to age and model repair history. These factors, along with others, such as overall demand and luxury features like leather seats, will also factor into the sticker price. This leads to a wide range of prices, even between vehicles of the same make, model, and year.
When purchasing a used vehicle, drivers should start by understanding their budget and research repair and maintenance costs for the particular year, make, and model vehicle they're choosing. Maintenance costs are rarely steady and predictable, particularly as a vehicle ages and racks up miles on the odometer, so developing an understanding of which vehicles can be maintenance headaches as they age will be a huge benefit.
Mileage can tell you a lot about a vehicle's history on its own. For example, if a car is only a few years old but has over 100,000 miles, it may have been a rental car in its previous life or was simply driven a great deal by its previous owner. In these cases, maintenance history will be incredibly valuable, so customers should use a service like CarFax before purchase so that repair records can be viewed. This will also tell you whether or not the car was involved in any accidents or required any major repairs that may be red flags to purchase.
Additionally, while high mileage may be a deal-breaker for some makes and models, in others like sturdy pickup trucks, high mileage may not impact sticker price as much. Pickups like Ford's F150 or the Toyota Tundra are in high demand, which helps them retain their value over 100,000 miles. They are also manufactured to handle more strenuous use, so with regular maintenance, mileage will not be as much of a factor.
For a used car purchase, being hands-on is much more important for customers. We recommend looking closely at pictures. Does the interior look worn? Are there any surface indicators like bleached paint, dents, or scratches that can indicate how previous owners cared for it? Lastly, getting onto the lot and having a first-hand look at the car, including a test drive, will be important as you determine whether you want to buy a vehicle.
It is also recommended to look into service intervals for the year, make, and model of vehicle you're considering. For instance, the used car you're considering may just have 38,000 miles, but if service intervals indicate things like a timing belt or significant repair will be due at 40,000 miles, these can be costly repairs owners may be on the hook for just a few months after purchase.
Lastly, used vehicle customers should always ask sellers if they can have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic. Get a multi-point inspection that can point out any hidden issues with your vehicle, so you have added peace of mind before pulling the trigger on a purchase.