You’re a smart shopper. You’ve used DexKnows to find your local car dealers and you know a used car can be a great deal. But which are the best models and years to consider? Here’s some guidance.
How Old to Go?
Steep initial depreciation is the used car buyer’s friend, making the expensive affordable after just a few years. But as cars and trucks age, they become more prone to mechanical and electrical failures. Maintenance costs rise. The sweet spot seems to be when a vehicle is 3 to 5 years old. The worst of the depreciation has already been suffered, but it should be several years before reliability starts to worsen and expensive repairs are needed. Depending on the manufacturer, there might even be some warranty coverage remaining.
Reliability comes top. Anyone who’s owned an unreliable vehicle has probably vowed, “Never again.” Information on reliability can be obtained from sources such as Consumer Reports and the J.D.Power organization.
Depreciation is bad news for new car buyers but a boon to someone after a used car. Bear in mind, though, that steep depreciation is a sign that a model is less sought after. You’ll need to decide how important that is to you.
Operating costs are another important consideration. Some cars are cheap to buy, but gas mileage, maintenance costs, insurance and taxes can make them a real drain on your pocketbook. A good way to explore this further is with the True Cost to Own® tool on the Edmunds website.
Assuming you’re reading this in 2013, the model years in your sweet spot are 2008 to 2010. Newer will be more expensive; older may be less reliable. But which make and model should you consider?
There’s no simple answer to that because what suits one buyer wouldn’t work for another. However, by using information published by Edmunds, Consumer Reports and J.D.Power, plus MSN, Forbes and Kiplinger, it’s possible to identify the vehicles that are generally considered “good buys” in their respective categories. So let’s get to the list.
- Small car — Hyundai Elantra and Pontiac Vibe
- Midsize car — Hyundai Sonata
- Large car — Ford Taurus
- SUV — Honda CR-V
- Sporty car — Infiniti G35
- Small pickup truck — Toyota Tacoma
- Large truck — Toyota Tundra and Ford F-150
- Minivan — Toyota Sienna
All of these offer a good combination of price, reliability and running costs. They might not suit everyone and, of course, there are many other good vehicles on the market. Remember, though, regardless of the make, model and year, when looking at any used vehicle, it’s essential to evaluate how well it’s been looked after. A neglected model from this list above could be a worse buy than a well-maintained example that didn’t make the cut.
Now, use DexKnows to find your local car dealerships, head out and start shopping!