Used car tool basics


#1

Hi, Day One of used car search and am at the “how to buy a used car” stage. which leads me to:

  1. CarGurus - what is the opinion on this site? It seems to be mostly if not exclusively dealers, and I am curious how their pricing scheme compares with KBB, NADA, etc.

  2. Is KBB still the dominant word on used car pricing? That’s the only one I ever heard my dad talk about back in the 90s (dating myself). I am curious how KBB, Edmunds, NADA etc. compare to each other - Is there one source that you, for whatever reason, trust more for some reason?

  3. weighing craiglist options versus just going to a dealer - I’ve read that there are no warranties in used cars, so are there any benefits to going to a dealer if I’m not looking to take out financing?

Thanks for any input given.


#2

Hey there! Good questions!

It all kind of depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to buy a nearly-new car, meaning around 2-4 years old, then most of them will be for sale at dealerships, so buying one at a dealership is likely the best course of action (because they’ll have the most selection). That also means using CarGurus, Autotrader, Edmunds, etc. to find the car is probably your best bet. You might also try Carvana for this market segment.

The pricing guides – KBB, Edmunds, NADA – all work pretty much the same way, and they are good for getting a ballpark figure on values, particularly for near-new (or actually new) cars. But none of them is gospel. In some cases, the individual car you’re looking at could easily be worth more or less than they say, depending on its history, color, features, location, etc.

Alternatively, if you’re interested in buying a somewhat older car, say 5+ years old (which most of us at Klipnik would recommend, mainly because you start saving a substantial amount in depreciation at that point), then I’d advise you against going to a dealership generally (more on that HERE). Most of the best older cars will be offered by private party sellers.

For private party sales, craigslist is usually your best bet for finding listings. Sometimes eBay has good ones, so it’s worth checking there, too.

The pricing guides for older cars aren’t very good. They tend to under price the really nice examples (which is what you ideally want to find) because they mainly use auction data as their basis, and older cars that go to auction are often not in great shape.

Hope that helps a bit. Please chime back in with any follow up questions that pop up!


#3

Hi, thanks for your help! Good answers, which obviously lead to more questions - I want what most of us probably want - a reliable Point A to Point B car that I won’t have to drop 3Gs into after 6 months of buying it just to keep it driving! My initial impulse is to buy a Toyota or Honda just because those are what my family has always had (my two prior cars have been a Camry and a Civic - both bought used and driven to their deaths) and I currently have a Toyota POS I mean 4Runner '96. We drive our cars into the ground and I’m not worried about resale value, nor am I worried about having a status car or any features whatsoever, except AC. I’ve set a budget at 8K and 120K miles. I am currently intrigued by “second tier” Asian imports like Mazda, Mitsubishi and Hyundai for two reasons: 1) I’ve read that there is a “Toyota tax” associated with Honda and Toyota based on their recognized longevity; and 2) if i’m not going to resell and another import will last me just as long without the increased cost, why pay? However, I have no experience with these other brands and will go with T&H if there aren’t any passionate defenders of the “other” imports. I welcome anyone’s recommendations. Thanks so much again.

EDIT: to reflect I’m almost exclusively looking at cars 5+ years in age. Thanks.

Amanda


#4

Yes, I think you’re smart to include Mazda and Hyundai/Kia in your search, though I wouldn’t exclude Toyota or Honda because you may just happen to find one that’s not overpriced when you start looking.

I wouldn’t go out of your way to find a Mitsubishi, though. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but they are such a small brand in the U.S. that it may be harder to find qualified people to work on them, parts, etc.

You might also consider adding Subaru to your list, particularly if all-wheel-drive would be a bonus where you live.

And if you are going 5+ years out, it probably makes sense to add Acura and Lexus to the search list, too, because their models will have depreciated enough at that point to make them not that much more expensive than similar models from Honda and Toyota.

As a next step, I’d suggest looking in your area for well-regarded mechanics who specialize in one or more of these makes. The name of the game with an older car is minimizing your repair and maintenance costs over time, so it’s important to ensure you have access to a trusty independent specialist before you pull the trigger on one brand over another.