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What is the Best Way to Compare Used Vehicles?

Article Details
  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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There are four critical factors to consider when looking at used vehicles: manufacturer or brand, mechanical fitness, useful lifespan and total price. It is important to start the process with a clear idea of your planned use of the vehicle and your budget. Think about how long you plan to keep the vehicle, the distance it will travel in that time and the road conditions in your area.

The quality of automobiles varies widely between different manufacturers and between models within a manufacturer. Invest the time to research quality reports on the different companies and rank the companies by their safety and quality ratings. Make sure that the reports you review cover the time period when the car was made. The reports provide an independent source of information and rating of car performance.

Once you have identified a short list of used vehicles to compare, ask your auto mechanic to inspect them and identify any mechanical issues. The older the vehicle, the greater the risk of mechanical problems. Make a prioritized list of issues that have to be repaired in the next six months and get a cost estimate for parts and labor. Compare the costs for the different used vehicles to get an idea of mechanical fitness of the vehicles.

A well-maintained car engine has an unlimited life span, assuming that you are willing to replace each part as it wears out. The same rule is not true for the actual body of the vehicle. Sun, water, and climate all have an impact on the useful life of your vehicle. Inspect the body closely for rust, prior repairs, and damage to get a sense of the useful life of the vehicle.

On average, car engine parts are designed to last for seven years. After this time, components break down and need to be replaced. If you are purchasing a car older than seven years, find out what has been replaced already and research the next major component that will require replacement.

Purchase price is a major part of the process when you compare used vehicles. Be sure to include any government fees, taxes and emissions tests in your budget. Look at the total equipment costs by incorporating the expected maintenance cost for the next six months in the total cost. Avoid selecting a vehicle based on styling, color, interior or any other cosmetic features. Keep an open mind and look at both domestic and foreign cars to get a complete picture of the options available to you.

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