The 3 Worst Mistakes a Used Car Buyer Can Make Today

Key Takeaways

  • Use car buyers risk dumping money into maintenance and insurance without taking precautions
  • Timing is everything in today’s car market
  • Used car prices have fallen, but likely have further to go

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Last updated Apr 12, 2024

At CarEdge, we dedicate ourselves to helping people navigate the car market, whether they’re buying or selling, with the ultimate goal of saving money, time, and hassle. This week, we’ve tapped into the expertise of CarEdge Co-Founder Ray Shefska to uncover the three biggest blunders you can make when purchasing a used car. If you like saving more and stressing less, you’ll want to avoid these costly mistakes!

1. Skipping a Pre-Purchase Inspection

Maintenance and Repairs

Think about the little routines that keep you safe every day—like double-checking that your door is locked before you leave the house. It’s a simple step, but one that saves a lot of headaches later. Buying a used car should be approached with the same level of caution, which is why a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) is critical.

What exactly is a PPI? It’s a thorough mechanical evaluation performed before you finalize a vehicle purchase. Although there isn’t a universal checklist, your mechanic will typically examine:

  • Tires and suspension
  • Fluids
  • Brakes
  • Engine
  • Transmission
  • Exhaust system
  • HVAC system
  • And more

Each mechanic may have a slightly different process, but it’s likely they’ll identify at least one issue. It’s then up to you to decide how much maintenance you’re willing to take on post-purchase.

👉 Learn more about pre-purchase inspections and why they’re essential.

2. Ignoring Potential Insurance Costs

In 2023, auto insurance rates in the U.S. saw a staggering 24% increase, reaching an all-time high. This surge was fueled by escalating repair costs, more frequent natural disasters, and an uptick in car accidents, all contributing to significant losses for insurers. And the costs are not expected to plateau—projections indicate a further 7% rise in rates for 2024.

However, there’s a silver lining for used car buyers: auto insurance rates typically decrease by 3.4% for each year a vehicle ages. But given the sharp increases in recent years, it’s crucial to check how much insuring a particular vehicle will cost you before making a purchase.

How do you check? It’s simple. Contact your insurance provider, provide the make and model or even the VIN of the vehicle you’re considering, and request a quote. This will ensure you have a complete understanding of the ongoing costs associated with the vehicle.

👉 Learn about the factors driving up car insurance rates and how to manage them.

3. Lacking Patience

tips for used car buyers

Timing is everything in the used car market. We track weekly used car price updates, and it’s clear that volatility continues. But there’s hope on the horizon for deal seekers.

Historically, we start to see wholesale values for used cars decline between April and June, a trend that typically carries over to the retail market soon after.

If you’re not in a hurry, consider timing your purchase to take advantage of market trends. Retail prices for used cars tend to decrease during late spring and summer. This is often due to several factors, including increased incentives on new cars—such as APR offers, cash back, and lease deals—which attract buyers to new vehicles and can lower demand in the used market.

As dealers face high interest rates and the costs of maintaining large inventories (known as floorplanning costs), they become more aggressive in selling new cars. This in turn puts downward pressure on used car prices to maintain a reasonable price differential between new and used vehicles.

The best times to buy are typically July through August and at the end of the year when dealers are eager to meet their sales targets and offer substantial deals.

👉 We track the best NEW car deals monthly here

Empower Your Car Buying Journey

Car buying cheat sheet

Avoiding these three pitfalls can make a significant difference in your used car buying experience. At CarEdge, we’re committed to making your car buying journey as smooth and beneficial as possible. To further enhance your buying strategy, we invite you to download our CarEdge Car Buying Cheat Sheets. These free resources are packed with tips and insights to help you negotiate better deals, understand market trends, and ultimately make informed decisions.

Download your free CarEdge Car Buying Cheat Sheets today and get equipped to navigate the car market with confidence!

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