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4 Tips for Getting the Absolute Best Deal on a Used Car — Without Risking a Lemon

UsedCarsBuying a used car is a smart investment, not only because it costs less at purchase, but because it costs less to maintain and insure, too. However, if you rush to buy a used car you run the risk of paying too much or worse, getting a lemon. However, don’t let the idea of getting a bad deal scare you away from the used car market; there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you pay less for the best quality.

Buy From a Charitable Organization
Instead of a car lot or individual buyer, buy from a charitable organization. They refurbish and stand by their cars, and because they don’t pay to get the cars in the first place, they can afford to let them go for the absolute lowest price possible. Check out the deals you get on like-new used cars and consider donating your old car, too. Since these organizations operate across the U.S., you’re sure to find cars available within easy distance for pickup.

Do Your Research on Long-Lasting Brands
Do your research on the brands of cars that perform well, even when used. Start by considering what kinds of features you’d like in a vehicle including size, gas mileage, storage space and other amenities. Find what models made in the past 10 years meet your standards, and then look into how they rate as used vehicles. Look at resources like Kelley Blue Book as well as individual reviews and feedback.

Research Fair Values
While you’re researching the best quality used vehicles, look up going prices for your favorite three to five models. Kelley Blue Book value is generally the most consulted source for used car value, but since other factors may come into play, such as the quality of the individual car and the amenities included, check out online auctions of the models, too. Don’t bid on anything just yet, but write down all of the prices you see on auctions that are actually attracting bids. Take into consideration any shipping costs, which might raise the price paid substantially. Of course, shipping costs would not be a factor in your purchase if you buy from a place within pickup range.

Participate in an Online Auction
If you opt to buy from a charitable organization via an online auction, you stand the best chance of paying the lowest price possible on a quality car. Much depends on your competition for the vehicle, but you can increase your chances of getting the best deal by:

  • Bookmarking or “watching” multiple auctions at once. Don’t bid on more than one just yet — if you win more than one, you’ll be legally obligated to buy them all.
  • Setting a reminder for the end date and hour of the auction. Have your phone or computer remind you with a scheduling app or program — or simply write it down.
  • Engaging in bid “sniping” as the auction winds down. If there are a few minutes left and the price is within your budget, put a bid in at the end. Most likely the other bidder won’t be watching the end of the auction.
  • Bidding an odd amount; for example, bid $1,158.53 instead of $1,100. If the other bidder is watching and tries to put in a quick small bid to outbid you, it will be difficult to guess the exact amount you put in and she may lose the auction at the last second because she underbid your odd amount.
  • Bidding only on auctions within the local area. If you bid outside your area, take the cost of shipping (usually by hiring a car moving service) into your overall budget before you bid.

New deals are posted almost every day from the most successful car donation organizations; if you miss out on one auction, there’s bound to be another for a car you like soon after.

MSN reports Americans buy 44 million used cars each year and only 17 million new cars. Clearly, there’s a greater demand for more affordable vehicles. While some of these used vehicles are overpriced or junky, smart shoppers can get their hands on quality cars for less. Prepare to jump into the used car market by doing some research beforehand, and buy only from reputable sellers.