Edmunds.com offers a wide range of resources for used car shoppers, from the early stages of figuring out what cars to consider and how much you can afford, to finding those cars and getting the best price. Like the car-buying process itself, there is an awful lot to consider, so here is a primer to help you navigate Edmunds.com's articles, data and car-buying resources to your best advantage.
What Should I Know? "10 Steps to Buying a Used Car"
This article is a pretty good place to start, as it breaks down buying a used car into 10 steps, from figuring how much you can afford to driving your car off the lot. For a more streamlined look at the process, our "Quick Guide To Buying a Used Car" is a good choice as well.
How Much Can You Afford? Car Affordability Calculator
When buying a car, be it new or used, it's of paramount importance to know how much you can actually afford. There's no point in getting excited about this model or that one if you discover late in the process that it will actually hemorrhage your bank account. The Edmunds Car Affordability Calculator has you fill out seven parameters, including your target monthly payment and cash down payment, to give you an idea of what sticker price range you should be looking for. You can also use this calculator for new cars.
How Much Should the Car Cost? True Market Value®
But how do you know if a car in that sticker price range is a fair one? Edmunds' True Market Value (TMV®) is there to answer that question by drawing on the average transaction prices of the used car in question that have recently sold in your area. Knowing this can help you determine what others have been paying to private-party sellers and dealers.
Of course, no two used cars are truly alike, so the values of specific cars differ. One could have low miles, but the previous owner could have smoked in it daily for years. Another car could have high miles, but could have been meticulously cared for. Still, TMV should provide a base line to determine whether an asking price is fair.
Which Cars Should You Consider? Edmunds Reviews
Edmunds.com reviews every car every year, providing the latest information about features, specifications and how it compares to other vehicles in its class in that given year. That means we provide a snapshot of what you can expect from just about any used car you'll find on a lot. The easiest way to see a review from any given year is to go to the top of any Edmunds page and select the make, model and year of car you're looking for. Then click on the "Reviews" tab of the page you're sent to.
How Much Will the Car Cost Over Time? True Cost to Own®
Of course, those Edmunds reviews cover what the car was like when new. Things obviously change over time with used cars, specifically in regards to depreciation, reliability and repair costs. To see how much a used car on average will cost over a five-year period, check out Edmunds TCO®. Using this, you'll be able to see how cars of different years, make and model compare in terms of depreciation, annual taxes and fees, fuel costs, insurance rates, maintenance costs and repair costs. Just because two cars may carry the same purchase price doesn't mean they'll cost the same down the road.
Finding a Used Car: Edmunds Inventory
Once you've decided on the type of car you want, Edmunds.com helps you out by displaying dealers' used car inventories to provide you with a list of possible vehicles. Beyond make and model, you can break down and filter your choices by mileage, trim level, engine and transmission choice, specific features and exterior and interior color. Availability in your area is another option. You can search across hundreds of miles, or shop close to home. You can also look at several model years at a time and easily carry on simultaneous searches of different makes and models without opening different browser windows.
What Are Certified Pre-Owned Cars? Compare CPO Programs
Certified pre-owned cars are used cars offered by manufacturer-affiliated dealerships that generally include a multipoint inspection certifying that the car meets manufacturer requirements, as well as extended warranty coverage of some kind. It's important to note, however, that not all certified pre-owned (CPO) programs are created equal. As such, Edmunds lets you compare CPO programs and provides details about each manufacturer's program. Edmunds TMV appraisals also show you what people are paying for certified pre-owned cars in your area.
How Can You Avoid Trouble? Vehicle History Reports
Edmunds has a number of articles intended to help you avoid buying a troublesome used car. One goes into detail about vehicle history reports, the so-called "DNA of a car" that will tell you about the number of prior owners, accident information and, depending on the report's provider, a service history. Getting a vehicle history report from Carfax, AutoCheck or the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System is an absolute must when purchasing a used car. One of the things that might show up is whether the car in question has a salvage title. Buying such a car can save you thousands of dollars, but there are almost always serious reasons for that title designation, such as serious accident or flood damage. We provide a guide, "What Is a Salvage-Title Vehicle?"
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.