When it comes to car buying, there may be fewer deals out there, but there is still plenty of value to be had.
To that end, cost-conscious car shoppers are increasingly seeking out used vehicles in good condition.
To be sure you get what you pay for, check for excess wear and tear beyond the stated number of miles, request a vehicle history report and bring the car to a repair shop for an inspection, advised Ivan Drury, director of insights at car-shopping comparison website Edmunds.
A certified pre-owned vehicle, usually one coming off a lease, often includes warranty coverage, which greatly reduces the worry that can also come with buying a used car.
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Buying a used car has typically been considered a smart way to save by avoiding the steep depreciation costs that go hand-in-hand with new cars.
However, a limited supply of new cars and trucks due to the ongoing chip shortage caused demand for used cars to skyrocket, pushing prices much higher and reducing the value of buying pre-owned.
Now, used cars are one of the few categories with prices that are finally lower than they were a year ago, according to the latest inflation reading.
Still, they remain 33% higher than where they’d be if normal depreciation were occurring, according to Pat Ryan, founder and CEO of CoPilot, a car-shopping app.
How to get the best used car for the money
When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, a recent iSeeCars study analyzed more than 2 million cars to see which used models are priced the lowest and offer the longest remaining lifespan.
The average price of the 10-year-old cars and trucks in the top 20 is just $12,814, with north of 100,000 miles remaining, the report found — or more than 46% left of their lifespan.
“Don’t be afraid of the 100,000-mileage marker on your odometer,” Drury said. “100,000 is not the mileage threshold it used to be,” he added. “Vehicle durability has improved dramatically over the last decade.”
In the No. 1 spot, a 10-year-old Chevrolet Impala costs about $9,700 with an average remaining lifespan of almost 120,000 miles.
The Toyota Prius is the next best deal, with up to 130,000 miles of drivability left to go for less than $14,000 — in addition to substantially lower fuel costs.
Other top contenders — such as the Kia Sedona, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Ridgeline and Ford Fusion — included a range of sedans, SUVs, minivans and a pickup truck.
Among 5-year-old cars and trucks, the Honda Fit topped the list, costing $18,486, on average, with a remaining lifespan of over 150,000 miles — or almost 75% of its total life, followed by the Civic and Prius.
Overall, five Toyotas made the top 10 list of best 5-year-old used cars for the money, also including the Camry, Corolla and Avalon.
The report looked at 10-year-old models priced between $9,000 and $19,000, with an average remaining lifespan of more than 100,000 miles, as well as 5-year-old models priced between $18,000 and $26,000 with an average remaining lifespan of more than 150,000 miles.
Anyone in the market for one of these used cars should “be prepared to act fast,” Drury said. “Many of these vehicles will not make it more than a few weekends before selling.”
A 10-year-old, $12,000 car will last just 27 days on the lot, on average, according to data from Edmunds.