When my car started acting up on a daily basis, I knew it was time for a replacement vehicle. I needed something that was going to be dependable and would be able accommodate any expansions to our family. A minivan was the way to go.
According to Yahoo! Auto’s Car Finder, new minivans start out at about $20,000. This was way out of our family budget, so we decided to look at newer used cars. With lots of research, we were able to find a 6-year old Dodge Caravan with 101,000 miles for around $6,000-a savings of 70 percent off a new minivan! We did this by buying a used car, looking for only the basics, and keeping an eye out for any potential issues.
Buying Used: Saved $7,000
A new car is so tempting. You can pick out the options you want, choose the color, and get that new car smell! But, with careful research, you can find a gently used car that performs just as well as a new car.
A big benefit to a used car is the price. You skip the humongous car payment and insurance bill. Many used cars are affordable enough that you can actually save up the money and pay cash for them.
A valid fear about used cars is that you don’t know if it will break down the next day. Well, I always look at the Car Fax reports on used cars. They are not fool-proof, but the reports give details on any repair work done on the car and how often it has been sold. I am always skeptical of a vehicle that was sold several times in a short period of time. This could indicate that the car has an undisclosed problem which has been handed off from one owner to another.
I also believe in buying a used car from a dealership, so that you have someone you can come back to if there are issues. Some dealers even have no-questions-asked return policies for a time period after your purchase.
Dealerships are usually anxious to clear used cars off their lot, so they tend to negotiate down prices fairly easy. The dealership we went to guaranteed that their salesmen did not work on commission, which made the transaction a lot simpler.
Buying a used car took a majority of the costs off of us, especially since cars depreciate so much in the first year. Carsdirect.com reports that vehicles lose 30 percent of their value as soon as they are driven off the lot. I would not want to pay $20,000 for a new minivan only to find out it was only worth $14,000 when I got it home.
Back to Basics: Saved $3,000
When we bought this vehicle, we decided to go with it even though it does not have power doors, power locks, or cruise control. This was a hard one to swallow for me, because I loved my door remote on the old car. Putting keys in locks seemed so 1980s. And then having to hand-lock all the doors–gasp!
The fact is that you get used to rolling up windows and locking doors really fast. It does not take more than a minute longer than a remote and is worth the savings. We test drove much older vehicles with all the bells and whistles and they would have cost thousands of dollars more.
Potential Issues: Saved at least $200
When we went to test drive the Caravan, the battery was dead from sitting in the lot too long. The salesman had to give the minivan a jump before we could try it out. When it came time to negotiate the sale, we brought up the dead battery and questioned how long the jump would last. Almost immediately, the dealership agreed to get a new battery put in for us for free.
I recommend researching the vehicle you are looking at for any known issues. Auto Recalls for Consumers, is a great site to visit to check for any problems that specific models have had. When you test drive a vehicle, also take note of any dashboard notifications that pop on, like tire pressure warnings, check engine lights, and oil lights. These are things you can usually get a dealer to take care of onsite or use to negotiate down the price.