• Jun 23, 2006

With all the deals going on, it's hard to imagine why anybody would go for a used car. But it's the right choice for some people -- with the proper preparation.

It's a common story. You buy a car from someone who advertised in the newspaper. The next thing you know, you're broken down in the worst part of town. It's hard to know what kind of care was taken of a car by its previous owner; whether the car requiring premium gas and synthetic oil got 87 grade from Speedway and one-off 10W-30... every 10,000 miles.

While there are no legal standards for "certified pre-owned," the little bit of security they offer in the form of a warranty is well worth the $1,000+ premium for CPO, according to the Chicago Tribune. Check out the link for more money-saving tips for auto buyers.

If you've been burned by a bad used car buy, let us know your story in the comments and perhaps you can prevent a similar fate for someone else.

[Source: Chicago Tribune]



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  • 24 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      I bought a CPO '04 Sebring Coupe last July, lived as a rental for the first 20k of its life. Got a fat warranty on it, and it's been an excellent car for us so far.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Back in the early 90's we bought a 4-year old Cadillac Eldorado with 45K miles on it from a local Caddy dealer. By the time we hit 90K miles we had replaced the tires, power antenna motor, electronic dash, electronic climate control panel, water pump, radiator, steering rack, and transmission. At about 95K miles the aluminum engine block started rotting from the inside out and let the antifreeze mix with the oil. At this point the car was toast. Every one of these major problems meant the car was out of commision for at least 1 week. The dealer told us these were all common problems for this car. Finally we gave the car to GOODWILL. For what we paid overall for the 6 years we drove it we could have leased a couple of new cars (3 years each) and most likely not had nearly the problems we had with this boat!!
      • 8 Years Ago
      The car I'm currently driving is only the second new car I've ever bought, and the two were 18 years apart. The only reason I bought my Mazda new was that people were asking more than I paid for used ones.

      None of the used cars have been CPO. And none of them has been a lemon. Everything that went wrong was as likely to go wrong on a car I'd bought new. Usually a designed-in defect.
      • 8 Years Ago
      In sort of a pre-midlife crisis I bought a 2003 Wangler Sport about 3 months ago. It had 55k mi, some aftermarket products (lift, wheels, etc), and a power train warranty still good for 15k. Needless to say i've used the extended warranty already (both diffs were leaking, and the tranny required two new syncros for reverse and 2nd gear).

      Used is a gamble, but if you take the right precautions it can be very financially rewarding. I've seen the previous owner's loan paperwork... he paid $30k for the Jeep. When you pay for options like windows, the price can climb pretty fast. Three years later I bought it for $12,500. Holy frejoles, that's a lot of money saved. I'll put only 5k miles/year on it, it looks great, and is a load of fun.

      For me it was perfect, even with a few flaws.

      One item I haven't heard mentioned is that all of these new car rebates going on now actually drives the price of used down given they have to compete. A cars total price take so many factors into account, depreciation being a major one. Used typically helps ease this cost considerably for those worried about saving money.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "I find it hard to imagine why peopel would go for a new car."

      - Included warranty, available longer bumber to bumber warranty (bough my last car with a 5 year b2b warranty)
      - Better reliability. If the car gets abused, it'll be your fault. If your used car was abused, you won't find out before it breaks down.
      - Getting what you want. Right trim, color, options, engine, etc. To some people that's very important.
      - New car smell. (as opposed to 3 years of seeped in sweat, farts, tacobell, wendies, spilled milk smell)

      There are lots of reason why people want new car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I've had great luck buying used cars over the years. My suggestions are the following:

      Run a CARfax or Experian Auto Check report. These aren't perfect and they miss some things occassionally, but they are great ways to verify the seller's story of the car's ownership history. If they miss something important they give you extra insurance (e.g. salvage title).

      The only way I will buy a used car from a dealer is if it's Certified Pre-Owned with a factory-backed warranty. Unless you have this, then it seems to me that you really get nothing from the dealer to justify the higher prices they demand. Once you drive over the curb you're just an owner.

      I prefer to buy from a private party where I can meet the previous owner. It's amazing what you can tell by meeting the previous driver. Is he or she a car fanatic? Is the car stored in a garage? If I buy from a dealer the car has likely passed through two or three hands (trade-in, wholesaler, auction, etc.) and the previous history is lost.

      Some recent examples... In late 2003 I bought a 2001 BMW 525iT (wagon). The car looked like new, the seller had a beatifully restored Porsche 356B in the garage, he had all records since new as well. The car had 38k miles on it with a warranty to 50k. The original MSRP on the car was $52k. I bought it for $27k. I drove it for two years and sold it for $25k. So I got to drive a luxury car under warranty any my total depreciation was less than half of the deposit for a lease on a new one alone. The first owner who bought it new, assuming he paid close to MSRP, lost enough in depreciation to buy a new V6 Accord for cash.

      My latest purchase, on eBay Motors, was for a 2003 Saab 9-5 Aero sedan. Original MSRP was $46k, I bought it for $19k with 41k miles on it as a certified pre-owned car with 100k bumper to bumper warranty from a Saab dealer. Now I realize that Saabs will continue to depreciate even more than the BMW did, but this is a heck of a car for $19k and I have a warranty just as if I bought it new.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Certified Pre-Owned is a crock. The "inspection" means "the lot boy washed it". The "Comprehensive inspection" means he dried it, too.

      The fellow with the bad knock sensor on the Strtus: there is not a Chrysler warranty that has ever meant anything. It is 3 years or 36 thousand miles of "they all do that", "we can't duplicate the problem", or "that's not covered". I bought my last Chrysler years ago.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Any vehicle will need normal maintence, tires, brakes, belts, hoses, fluids, filters, shocks, struts,timing belts, bulbs, wipers blah blah blah.

      If you keep a new vehicle long enough you will have to replace all those parts as well...

      I buy used and do most of my own work, my car is domestic so parts are cheap and common, I can buy OEM, aftermarket, reman, or used parts from a recycler.

      So my used vehicle had some things that needed to be replaced due to the way the PO used it but the cost of these parts and my time was significantly less than the thousands of $ difference in price between new and what I paid.

      Still it is a much nicer vehicle than anything I could have got new for the same price.

      My theory is this, if a car is junk after 5 yrs it was junk when it was new. I wouldn't buy any car new that I would not buy used. Eventually every car is a used car.

      My car gets ok gas mileage ... but because it is so reliable and so inexpensive to maintane it is no more expensive to operate than an import "economy" car.

      False economy if you ask me ... my friend spent more $ in one repair on his civic than it "saved" in gas money in 1 yr of operation vs mine.

      • 8 Years Ago
      Used vs.New is a very difficult debate because there are so many factors to consider-New cars depreciate dramatically, but used cars are more likely to have problems. Of course some new cars hold their value much better than others, and even new cars have problems, while used cars, even if they were well maintained, may start to have trouble anyway... Certainly how the driver will use the car is a big factor as well. If you drive 30K miles per year, you might want to avoid buying a new car b/c high miles in the first few years will have a more dramtic effect on the depreciation than in the later years- of course if you drive a lot, you might want the piece of mind that driving a new car provides... I have bought 2 cars used, and 1 car new. My first car was a 1984 300zx Turbo, 50th Anniversary Edition- a "collectors" car, although I use that term loosely. The car was in great shape when I bought it, low miles, and I've basically always kept it in the garage. I use it for car shows and road ralleys, and have averaged about 1,000 miles per year for the last 10 years I've owned it. I paid 5500 for it originally, and probably could sell it for over 7,000 today- granted its not too often that you buy a car and it holds its value or appreciates, but this is a specialized car that is rarely used.... My other used car is a 1999 Saturn SW1 (wagon, 5 speed), that I bought 2004. I paid $3500 orginally, put about $1000 into it (tires, alternator), and have driven it for over 50,000 miles (it now has 120K on the OD. If you divide the total cost by the number of months I've owned the car, I probably could have leased something new for about the same amount of money- but because its a used car I've just had liability insurance on it, and it gets amazing gas mileage... I guess if I sold the Saturn today I could get about 1500 for it. So I haven't really spent any serious money on that car either, despite putting a ton of miles on it. My thrid car is a 2003 Nissan 350Z that I bought new- actually this was one of the first new Z's delivered in New Jersey (took delivery on 9-8-02)- I'm a huge Z fan, and simply had to be the first on my block to have one... it was an emotional purchase that cost me more money, but I love the car, and it was totally worth it. Actually wasn't such a bad move, the car has held its value extremely well... but that doesn't matter, I don't plan on selling it anyway.... Only has 18,000 miles on it- this car has by far cost me the most money, but again, I really love the car, and sometimes you need to put that over dollars and cents.
      • 8 Years Ago
      All of my cars in the last 15 years have been new, but in the future I plan to buy used - 3years old. I did buy 1 used car to use as a commuter car to save miles on my "good" car. I bought a 1992 Mazda MX-3 for $2200. I test drove it and everything seemed ok. I quickly realized that the previous owners had sold it at exactly the right time - EVERYTHING needed work. I replaced the tires, brakes (total job), shocks, timing belt, head gasket, and did a complete tune up. All told I spent about $4000 which included snow tires. Yikes!! BTW, it now sits dead in my garage for unknown reasons. At least the A/C is ice cold. :)
      • 8 Years Ago
      We use a $200.00 handheld computer to check engines, transmissions and evironmental systems on all cars built after 1996 before we buy them for our dealer network.
      Individual used car buyers can have a car checked this way at almost any good repair shop.
      We are working on ways to create a car community of independent car dealers, mechanics and parts resellers so that buyers can feel confident in their purchases.

      JZ
      www.mycarfs.com
      • 8 Years Ago
      Thankfully I know of a few tests that, for the most part, kept me from buying a poorly used "pre-owned" car. Just simple things like, tire tread wear (if the tires are brand new, ask why; if they are bad, also ask why); checking oil to see if water (remember the GM intake gasket problem) by dripping some off of the dip stick onto the hot engine block to see if it experience"sizzles"; the biggest test of them all of course is the test drive (duh) and just looking for any thing out of the norm (drifts to the right/left, poor acceleration, grinding noises, etc.)

      I guess because I grew up around classic cars and have rebuilt my share of engines and drive trains I just have a good knowledge base that others (like my grandmother for example) do not. I should hope that everyone reading this and other (auto)blogs have a similar knowledge base.

      Buying a used car is not, or rather, should not be a bad if you are just smart about it.
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