At our dealership, we find it is best to get good quality cars, with no accidents, and relatively low mileage. This is not always easy but these kinds of cars are easier to sell, cause fewer problems after the sale, and enhance (rather than detract) from the dealership’s reputation. After all, we don’t want a few scary used cars to negatively impact our new car sales, service department, and parts department business. The problem is that the best used cars cost more to acquire than the cars with issues.
Another factor impacting used car prices is the effect of supply and demand. Whenever the economy slows down, people start hanging onto their vehicles longer. That reduces the supply of used vehicles. And, more people are now leasing which generates increased supply of “used cars” as they come off lease.
So, if you are trying to buy a used car right now, you may experience “sticker shock” when you go to the used car lot. But remember that a 3 or 4 year old car is now far better built than used cars of the recent past. You’ll find the current crop of used cars include lots of standard features that were not readily available 10 years ago. To check on what you should be paying for a used car, I recommend VMR Canada or Canadian Black Book as two sources that use actual sales data rather than retail sales sites such as AutoTrader that lists used cars with their asking prices.
If you are going to end up paying a bit of a premium for your used car, make sure you are buying from a reputable dealer and be sure to check the vehicle history. The dealer should provide it at no charge, in the form of a CarFax (USA) or CarProof(Canada) report.