Life Lessons & How Tos

How to Buy a Used Car: Advice for Seniors

Buy A Used Car

Transportation should provide enjoyment, not a financial burden

What enables people to be on time for a scheduled appointment, attend a favorite social event or recreational activity, or just drive on a pleasant summer day?

What machine do many people get to know as if it were almost a member of the family?

What enables drivers to experience greater freedom? Of course, what else but the automobile. Or in today’s terms: the automobile, sport-utility vehicle, or minivan.

More and more people are realizing that the cost of new transportation can really throw a budget into reverse. In many instances, today’s new vehicle prices compare to the cost of a new home just a generation ago.

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Since dependable transportation is a necessity–do not despair; a two to a four-year-old used vehicle can be purchased at a savings of 25 to 50 percent as compared to its cost when new. Additionally, the number of well-built, dependable vehicles has increased during the past decade

When well maintained these vehicles can be driven for many miles, and they are now available at substantial savings.

The purchase of a dependable, reasonably priced used vehicle is not a matter of chance or luck, but rather, it is a matter of knowledge and understanding. Becoming informed is one of the most important factors in successfully purchasing a dependable used vehicle at the best price.

Gathering Information Variety is the spice of life. Certainly, the number of vehicles that are available today can add spice to one’s daily travels.

Literally, hundreds of different vehicles are available, but which one is the best for you?

To better determine the vehicle that satisfies your transportation needs, first, take the time to carefully identify your current and future driving needs, then become aware of the many available vehicles, and finally, zero in on the vehicles that best meet your needs.

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A very dangerous frame of mind to be in is to “fall head over heels” for a particular make or model of vehicle based purely on emotion. Although some emotion is always part of life, it is wise to put excessive emotions aside and focus on day-in and day-out transportation needs.

Some questions to consider about transportation needs include:

  • How many people will be transported in the vehicle?
  • What type of objects and cargo will be transported in the vehicle (space considerations)?
  • Will driving be conducted in poor weather conditions or off-road (rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive)?
  • Will stop-and-go or interstate driving be performed? Thus, is an automatic, semi-automatic, or a standard transmission preferred?
  • Is there a preference for a domestic or a foreign vehicle?
  • In a sport-utility vehicle, is a more rugged full box type frame needed for off-road driving, or will a unit-body type frame be suitable for intended general highway driving? Additionally, what towing capacity should the sport-utility vehicle have?
  • In a minivan, are sliding doors needed on both sides, the left-side or the right side of the vehicle for easier entry and exit?
  • How much will insurance cost to protect the driver and the vehicle (consider obtaining an insurance quote before buying a vehicle)?
  • What is the approximate amount of money to be spent on a vehicle?

If you are not familiar with which vehicles meet your transportation needs, consider visiting a local public library to consult the yearly publication or the April magazine issue of Consumer Reports. This objective information source provides technical specifications for vehicles including the size, weight, engine horsepower, optional equipment, and miles per gallon of fuel. If technical information is desired for a specific used vehicle, review the Consumer Reports issue that matches the vehicle’s year (1998 Toyota Avalon–consult the 1998 April issue of Consumer Reports).

After determining the type of automobile, sport-utility vehicle, or minivan that satisfies your needs, it is worthwhile to consult Consumer Reports’ frequency-of-repair information to identify specific vehicles that will likely have fewer future repairs. Regarding the frequency-of-repair information, if a vehicle of interest is six years old or less, consult the most recent April edition of Consumer Reports. If the vehicle is more than six years old, add five years to the vehicle’s year and then consult that year’s April issue of Consumer Reports.

Web discussion groups are also a good source of “from the street” information for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of specific vehicles.

It is a good idea to identify at least two or three used vehicles that meet your transportation needs. Then, instead of being in a position to only consider vehicle A, you will have the flexibility to consider vehicles A, B, or C. This increases your ability to purchase a used vehicle that is in excellent condition at the best price.

In addition to becoming informed about particular vehicles, it is worthwhile to learn the approximate prices for vehicles of interest.

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