Whether they’re buying plane tickets or antiques or DVDs, the Internet has made it possible for lots of Americans to become savvy bargain shoppers. But have you ever bought a used car online? Believe it or not, the online used car marketplace has exploded in recent years. Now you can research vehicles, locate exactly the car you want for the price you want to pay, and even make the purchase, all online.
But how do you know whether you’re getting a peach or a lemon? Buying a nearly new vehicle is a lot easier than it used to be. Every year more than 40 million used cars change hands in the United States, and there are lots of good reasons to consider the option.
“A two- to four-year-old car today can offer customers much of the comfort, performance, styling and reliability of a new model, and it sells for 30 to 60 percent less than a new vehicle,” says John Davis, executive producer and host of Motor Week, the critically acclaimed PBS weekly automotive magazine series.
According to Davis, cars are better built these days, and the styling is changed less often and less radically than it used to be, so a three-year-old car looks and drives a lot like a new one.
There is also less risk involved now. New car warranties have been lengthened and coverage is at least three years (36,000 miles) for all vehicles, and for premium cars it can be twice as long.
There is usually rust and corrosion protection that lasts even longer and roadside assistance coverage as well.
Dealers now offer another level of protection for the consumer in the form of certified used vehicles. These are nearly new cars that meet specific qualifying standards, have been carefully inspected and serviced, and are backed by extra warranties.
Consumers can also have potential purchases inspected and certified by independent firms, and they can even purchase additional, after-market warranties.
Perhaps the biggest change has been how consumers shop for cars. Instead of just relying on the want ads or local dealers, people can browse large online auctions where they have access to cars from all over the country. “You can always find the car you want on the Web,” says Davis. “You have the entire country to choose from. If a buyer in the Northeast wants a car that doesn’t have any winter damage, he can search for one from the South,” he adds.