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How to Find the Best Deals on Used Cars

Recent data has confirmed what many of us have long suspected: Used cars provide an affordable alternative to the high prices charged in dealership showrooms. Purchasing a new vehicle has never been more expensive; meanwhile, used cars have never been more reliable. For consumers on a budget, it’s really a no brainer.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that not all used car deals are created equal. It’s a good idea to make an effort to track down the best deals out there—to save money and to ensure that you’re getting a vehicle of real value. The question is how? Where do you look for the best deals—and how do you know when a deal is too good to be true?

Tips on Finding the Best Used Car Deals

Here are just a few tips for the bargain hunters out there:

Resist the urge to buy from a private party. You may see some good prices from private sellers on sites like Craigslist and eBay, but you won’t get anything in the way of consumer protection here, meaning you could end up with a lemon—and besides, there can be a lot of hassle associated with private party sales. In the end, shopping at a used car dealership offers greater assurance of value, and ultimately a better deal.

Look in the right range. Even a fairly old vehicle, with 100,000 or more miles on it, can have plenty of life left in it. With that said, the sweet spot for most buyers is to get a car that’s about two or three years old. These vehicles should still be in great shape, yet they will have lost half their original sticker value or more, meaning you can get them for surprisingly low prices.

Be wary of vehicles that come with big risks. Salvage titles and cars that are for sale “as is” will surely come with low price tags, but they also come with a pretty big chance of failure. You may end up pumping a lot of money into those cars, in terms of repairs and replacements, which means the value may not be as good as you first think. If nothing else, have an independent mechanic inspect them before buying.

Shop around at different dealerships. Of course it never hurts to get different prices and to check different inventories. There are plenty of online tools that will help you compare different dealerships and their wares, so take full advantage of them, or simply call around to a few lots to see what they have to offer.

Be willing to negotiate. You’re never going to get a dealer to take more than 20 percent off the asking price—sometimes not even that much. You often can ask for 5, 10, or even 15 percent off, however, so don’t be afraid to ask!

By following these tips, it’s possible to find a used vehicle that you’ll really love—and to get it for a truly affordable price.