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2. Research the type of vehicle you are interested in

There are more sources for car information than you can shake a stick at. Be it online or in print, the used car business is a huge generator of revenue for dealers.

Numerous publications take the time to evaluate the worth of vehicles once they are a few years old.

Priceless information
These media typically painstakingly take note and tabulate complaints, recalls and other safety issues in order to paint a complete picture of a given car's merit. These stats along with crash test results from sites such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) will point you in the right direction for the near perfect used car purchase.

Elements to consider
The most important elements to strongly consider are reliability, safety and ownership costs. Reliability is tied into ownership costs but beyond that, the thought of purchasing a vehicle that is notorious say for, transmission failures, is clearly not a good idea.

Ownership costs
Ownership costs relate to everything from insurance coverage to replacement parts. Some brands charge premiums for certain components whereas other higher volume brands have lower retails prices.

You can find all of this great information in magazines such as:
Consumer Reports
APA's Lemon Aid Buyer's Guide (for members only)
Phil Edmonston's Lemon-aid Used Cars and Trucks
or on reputable websites such as auto123.com.

Tips:
- As a car evolves through the years of a given generation, issues are generally addressed. Therefore, it is usually best not to purchase a model from its first year of production.
- Your corner garage, so long as they are not affiliated with a given brand, may also be a good source of hands-on unbiased information.

 

DIVING DEEPER INTO CARS

As with most consumers, we know what we like but may not be familiar with what it is that we fancy. As with any type of consumer goods, there are numerous publications that evaluate, if not every product, the most popular best selling ones.

Specialized media

There are books, magazines and newspapers that are devoted to or dedicate parts of their pages to all types of opinions and evaluations of cars. The internet remains the most complete, easily accessible source of all types of information.

Recalls

Recalls are a very well known indicator of how a car or truck may be performing in the real world. They always pertain to safety defects and once emitted typically mean that the issue has been handled. Should the vehicle you are interested in have been involved in numerous campaigns; it may be a good idea to minimally avoid a specific model-year.

Crash protection

There are two organizations in North America that monitor and test nearly every car sold here. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA - http://www.safercar.gov/) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS - http://www.iihs.org/) are excellent sources of data.

Europe has its own association that ensures that new cars meet established safety criteria. Called the Euro NCAP (http://www.euroncap.com/home.aspx) or European New Car Assessment Program, they are the ideal destination for more crash protection details for a European car.

Total ownership costs

The purchasing budget should consider the cost variations inherent to purchasing product from various car makers. Luxury brands typically command “luxury” maintenance costs and can therefore be quite expensive to keep on the road.

Although the desired luxury car may now be affordable, parts and labor costs are still higher than with mainstream brands.

Finally, reliability plays a huge roll in forecasting the frequency of repairs. Obviously, more trips to the garage will undoubtedly cost more.

Scenario

The Explorer and Q7 found in the Johnsons’ initial searches are investigated online by visiting various websites at their leisure before going out shopping.

It quickly becomes clear that both vehicles are very safe. Ratings are high in both cases and recalls are next to non-existent. As far as this research is concerned, these SUVs seem to be on equal footing.
The situation changes somewhat when reliability comes into play. The Explorer is rated as average whereas the Q7 falls below average. Audi dealerships and specialized Audi shops charge higher hourly wages than Ford. These two factors normally indicate higher on-road costs.

Despite this, the four rings on the Q7’s front grille prove to be too attractive on the computer screen and the Johnson’s collective minds. They decide to pursue the Audi and begin researching various classified ads.