Consumer: Picking the best used car for you

October 11, 2011

It's not the gamble it used to be - if you do your homework. In fact, Consumer Reports says these days buying a used car can be one of the best ways to save a big chunk of money.

We all know that the value of a new car plummets the moment it leaves the showroom. So, car buyer Israel Camacho says, "Why not buy used?"

"It'll last for another ten years, almost as long as a brand new car and I save $17,000," Camacho said.

"Buying a late-model, low-mileage used car can be a smart move. I t can cost as much as 45 percent less than the same car was when new, yet still have most or all the features you're looking for and still have years of life left in it," said Jon Linkow of Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports says if you're buying a used car, get ready to do some research. As you narrow down your choices, be sure to factor in a vehicle's reliability.

Then, research going prices and hone in on actual cars on sites like Auto, eBay, and Yahoo autos.

"When you find the right car, now is the time to be extra skeptical. Getting a vehicle history report, like a Carfax, is OK, but don't stop there," Linkov said.

You'll need your mechanic to inspect the car, as the vehicle history report doesn't always pick up everything, like accidents. You'll probably need to leave a deposit with the seller and expect to pay around $100 for the inspection.

"If the car passes mechanical muster, you're ready to bargain. Make an offer based on the prices that you've researched. Be prepared to dicker a little, but also be prepared to walk away," Linkov said.

Solid research and diligence can pay off when you find a great car at a great price.

What about certified pre-owned cars? Consumer Reports says the extra cost may not be worth it, especially if you have done a good job of picking a reliable car.

You can find a list of Consumer Reports' best used cars on their website.

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