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How to Buy a Secondhand Car that Holds its Value

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Buying a secondhand car is both a fun and nerve wracking experience. Hunting for that perfect car that’s within budget isn’t easy. Even when you find one that fits exactly what you want, it is possible that the same car will turn into an absolute money pit. 

This is why it’s so important to ask the right questions when shopping for a car, but also to take into account the larger picture. You need to know exactly what you are getting into and what the market for that vehicle is like.

5 Tips for Not Losing Money When Buying a Secondhand Car

  1. When you have found some models you like, do a little research. Find out how reliable they are and approximate prices for general repairs and servicing. If the model has been around for a while, compare the prices of previous models and how they have lost value over the years.
  2. No matter how nice the seller seems, always get the service history. Even if it is a lovely elderly gentleman selling it, you need to know what has happened to the car over the years. A car that is serviced regularly (even if driven a lot) will often be better than a car that someone simply never serviced or hardly ever used.
  3. Consider buying a certified dealership car or one with the full history from a private seller. Many car dealers have inflated prices and know how to make a car seem good. Normally you can get a better price from a private seller. However, a certified used car from the dealership also has the advantage of undergoing a strict testing, repairs, and often a short term guarantee (which adds a nice ‘comfort’ factor).
  4. Check the market prices before you start to negotiate. With this, don’t only go by general ‘insurance’ or market averages, but actually look at a range of cars for sale and consider that they are likely marked up by 20-30% of what the seller would accept. This puts you in a much clearer position when negotiating a purchase. Also check your budget, and if it is tight, consider getting either a bank loan before buying, or a title loan after purchasing.Title loans can be a good way to release some of the funds you’ve tied up in a vehicle, which can be handy if you need to stretch your budget.
  5. The last of our tips is the most important. Get it checked out by a mechanic, preferably one you know, but at least make sure it is one the seller won’t know. You could also offer to cut the mechanic in on what they help you save on the price, as the mechanic will then be driven to find every little fault or potential issue.

The above tips should help you to find a car that doesn’t lose value quickly and doesn’t take all of your money in repairs. However, if you have some DIY skills or have a friend or family member that does, then it can also be good to look for a car that is mechanically sound, but in need of some TLC.

Often you can buy a car that has faded paint, surface rust, or has other cosmetic issues a lot cheaper. Most of this can be then fixed up with some T-Cut, a bit of filler, or a small respray of a panel etc. This can save you hundreds of dollars and shouldn’t cost much to get it looking good. Who knows, you might even end up selling it for a profit a year or two later.