If you are like most used car buyers looking for a good deal then you are looking to spend as little as possible to get you rolling. If spending as little as possible is your main focus in buying a used car then you should be shopping with a strict set of criteria that any car must meet in order for you to consider buying it.
There are a number of factors that affect the cost of owning a car both short term as well as long term. Here are a list of factors to consider when looking to spend as little money as possible when buying a used car:
1) the car must not be too expensive to buy
2) the car must be in good mechanical overall condition
3) parts for repairs must be readily available and affordable
4) the car must meet reasonable expectations of longevity
5) the car must be economical on fuel costs
6) the car must be economical on insurance costs
These are general guidelines that are based on the cost to buy, maintain, repair, insure and drive the car. A car that meets these requirements will have the greatest likelihood of costing the least both up front, but also in the long run when you factor in the ongoing costs of driving the car.
What is the best type of car for a small budget?
If you are shopping within a tight budget but require a car that will be consistently reliable for the foreseeable future then you really should be shopping for a four cylinder car that is front wheel drive and has four doors. Additionally you do not want the vehicle to be newer than 5 years old and no older than 12-15 years old.
The age of the car you are buying will be one of the most important factors in determining the value of the car. In addition to being an attribute of the condition of the car itself, the vehicle year will also affect the insurance quotes that you will get on the car, the availability and cost of replacement parts, as well as the resale value in the future should you want to sell the car.
Buying a brand new car
Buying a brand new car is a rewarding experience to be sure but seldom a wise investment since a new car will devalue instantly as soon as you assume ownership of the car. This measurable loss in equity is a result of the car no longer being brand new and thereby losing its most valued attribute. For any person looking to buy a car on a budget a brand new car will almost always be a bad decision. If you are intent on buying a new or nearly new car, the value of your buying dollar will go much further on a car that is even six months or one year old.
Buying used cars 1-5 years old
Used cars in the category are a substantially better investment than cars that are brand new. The large depreciation of the car when it transitioned from being a new car to a used car has been experienced by the current or previous owner. A car in this age range will be less likely to experience mechanical failures than cars moderately older, which is important as replacement parts are more expensive and less available than cars which are a few years older. Additionally the insurance premiums you are quoted for newer cars is substantially higher than a car which is a few years older. This is a very important factor for any used car shopper which falls into a moderate to high risk category due to age, experience or previous claims on their insurance history.
Buying used cars 5-10 years old
Used cars in the age range of five to ten years old represent the best likelihood for a good long term car investment for a thrifty shopper. The insurance rates on these vehicles will be much lower than newer vehicles and replacement parts should be readily available and cost effective to buy. The purchase price of used cars in this age range are low and the possibility of finding an undervalued car to buy for cheap is high if you shop around enough. There is a sharp drop off in price as cars age from the five year to the ten year point. A used car that is more than ten years old will be priced according to its condition more than its age.
Buying used cars more than 10 years old
Once a car is more than a decade old it will be priced for sale according to its condition and vehicle reputation alone. It can be expected that used cars of this age will require regular maintenance and ongoing repairs for the remainder of its life. Some older cars will sill run trouble free for years while others will need repairs on a regular basis just to keep them on the road.
A used car buyer shopping in this age range must be comfortable with performing vehicle repairs and maintenance themselves or have a dedicated monthly budget to allow for ongoing repairs.
Additionally a used car in this age range can develop a problem which will be very expensive to repair such as an engine or transmission failure so the importance of being able to buy a used car that is in good condition is even more important. Rust and rot can also become a pressing issue for cars in this age range, especially in colder climate areas where road salts are used to keep the roads cleared in winter. A ten year old car that has not been maintained or rust proofed located in a cold climate could easily be rotted beyond repair on the frame or sub frame. Vehicles in this age range are likely to be the least reliable and are recommended only for those who are capable with DIY repairs on an ongoing basis and carrying a basic tool and emergency kit is a must at all times.
As you can see there is more to consider than simply the price tag when it comes time to buy a used car. There is no such thing as the best used car, only the best used car for your needs and your budget.