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The Best Places to Buy Used Cars

According to most financial experts, buying an inexpensive used car and driving it for years is one of the most intelligent economic decisions folks can make. Purchasing and driving used reduces the cost of car ownership drastically, but only if done right; some “cheap” cars can cost a fortune.

With that in mind, what is the “right” way to buy a used car? Is one resource better than another? The answer depends on your needs and priorities. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each choice.

Dealerships

Used car dealerships in Houston, TX, are an excellent resource for used cars, especially if you value selection. At a dealership, you’ll find a wide variety of vehicles to choose from in one location, which is easier and more convenient than visiting multiple individual sellers. Dealers get trade-ins regularly, so their inventory is constantly changing as well. Another benefit from buying used at a dealer is that the dealer typically inspects the used cars they sell, fixes significant issues, and ensures the vehicle meets a reasonable minimum standard. Since used cars vary wildly in condition, a dealer stamp of approval can be reassuring.

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You’ll also often find Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars at a dealer’s lot. CPO cars are more expensive than regular used cars, but the value you get for the extra money is substantial. CPO vehicles undergo extensive reconditioning and testing and are sold with generous warranties. They’re as close to a new car as you can get without paying the high premium for new. If you’re in the market for an upscale, luxury car, CPO is an especially smart way to go.

When you buy a used car from a dealership – independent or otherwise – financing options are usually available. If you don’t have the cash to buy a car and require a loan, a dealership is the place to go.

Online Dealership

A variation of an independent used car dealership is an online dealer such as CarMax. Online dealers allow you to search a nationwide inventory of cars. Their selection typically includes late-model cars, so this is probably not the best resource if you’re looking for a specific vintage auto. Many online dealers have no-haggle policies, meaning the price you see is the price you pay. This resource is a good fit if you value a large selection and hassle-free buying (you can shop from your couch).

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Private Sales

Another way to buy a used car is to purchase from a private party. You can find private listings online at sites such as AutoTrader, Facebook, and Craigslist, to name a few. When going private, you get the following benefits:

  • Great selection. There are countless cars for sale in every condition and every price range.
  • Easy negotiations. Most private sellers aren’t trained negotiators, so getting a good deal is possible.
  • Low price. If a low price is your priority, a private sale is absolutely the way to go.

But going private also has drawbacks, including the following:

  • Private sellers usually have one car for sale. You can’t see different cars side by side for comparison. You get one seller, one car.
  • As-is. Unless the car you buy is still under its original warranty, you’re buying a used car as-is. That’s risky. You can mitigate that risk by having the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic, but it’s still a risk.
  • Limited information. Sifting through car listings can leave you hungering for reliable information. Photos may be bad or missing, VINs might not be included, and sometimes the seller doesn’t have all the relevant data. Always run a vehicle history report to avoid buying a car that’s been wrecked, salvaged, or doesn’t even exist.

A private sale requires you to do a lot more leg work, but the result can be driving away with an amazing car at a low price.

The bottom line: any way about it, be smart and buy used.

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