Used Car Shopping: What to Expect

Let’s take a look at the Used Car Shopping landscape and consider the perils. So where should you be looking for a used car?  You really have the following choices:
  1. Buy from a Private Seller. Getting on Kijiji may appear to be the lowest cost way to get your next car but it is a bit of an illusion. And, it’s also the least safe way to buy. You are essentially buying an “as is” vehicle with no recourse if it turns out to be a clunker.
  2. Buy from a Small Independent Car Lot. This is little better than buying privately since these small lots normally have the cars that franchise dealers and large used car superstores have turned down. You may get lucky and if you’re not lucky, you better be handy.
  3. Buy at a Used Car Superstore. Used car lots with more than 100 cars have the critical mass to offer financing and warranty protection similar to what you can get at a new car dealer’s used car lot. Some of these large operations are owned by new car dealerships but all are competing with new car dealerships for shoppers who want a good deal but also want to avoid the risk of buying a problem.
  4. Buy at a New Car Dealership. What does a dealer offer you? First, a dealer has access to many more quality used cars including trade-ins, vehicles coming off lease, and fleet or rental units.   Dealers normally get first crack at the best quality used cars coming off leases. They will have the vehicle thoroughly inspected and refurbish it both mechanically and cosmetically. If the vehicle is their franchise brand, they have access to warranties and financing subsidized by the manufacturer on the best units in inventory.
But can you get the best deal at a dealer? Is it cheaper buying privately?  In the final analysis, it might even be more expensive to buy privately.  A dealer’s cost to repair a transmission or replace an air conditioning compressor will be well below what the average person will pay. This allows a dealer to refurbish a vehicle, make a profit and still be competitive with a private seller. When you compare a private sale with a dealer or used car superstore sale … look at price and quality!

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