In the day and age where time is the most precious and scarce resource, owning a car is not a luxury; it is a bare necessity. However, in today’s economy, especially in the years following the COVID outbreak, purchasing a car can be considered a major, life-defining decision.

With prices of new vehicles skyrocketing (upwards of 40%, to be specific), the vast majority of buyers are forced to come up with strategies on how to get a car for cheap, without having to sacrifice reliability, performance, comfort, or a reasonable combination of the three.

The most logical answer to this conundrum is finding good deals on used cars, thereby ensuring you get a reliable ride without obliterating your budget. The good news is that today’s used car market is brimming with opportunities to save money without compromising on quality.

The bad news is that, despite the options available, purchasing a good pre-owned vehicle while staying within budget constraints remains a daunting task. Fortunately, that’s a problem we can remedy with relative ease, just by offering you several car-buying pro tips!

used cars good price

How to buy a good used car on a budget?

The secret to obtaining a quality used car at a good price lies in a strategic approach. What you’re looking for is a way to maximize the value of your investment while minimizing the risks involved in buying pre-owned vehicles. 

This can be achieved by being realistic in your expectations, mindful of your budget constraints, and, above all, being well-informed about the car-buying process and everything it entails. Combining these factors enables you to make an informed decision that will ultimately lead to a satisfying conclusion.

Assess your budget

The first and most obvious step is to evaluate how much car can you afford. The best approach here is to start by evaluating your overall financial situation.

Begin by calculating your monthly income, accounting for essential expenses and fixed costs (e.g. rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc.). What you’ll arrive at is your so-called “disposable income” – your free-to-spend money. However, this is still not your car-buying budget. 

After calculating your disposable income, you’ll have to factor in all extra costs that come with owning the vehicle. These include expenses such as insurance, taxes, registration fees, regular maintenance, and monthly fuel usage.

Set realistic expectations

With your budget set, it is time for an absolutely crucial part of the process: clearly discerning between your needs and wants, and focusing on the former.

  • First, you should create a list of “must-haves”. These are the features that are critical for your day-to-day functioning and, as such, are non-negotiable. Items on this list should align with your essential needs and lifestyle, rather than preferences.
  • Second, make a list of “good-to-haves”. These will be much lower in priority, and their purpose is to help you weigh your options and narrow the selection once you have several cheap used cars to choose from.
  • Finally, draft a list of “can-do-withouts”. Here, you’ll note all those extra bells and whistles, features, and specs that can be freely disregarded when making the final decision.

Do the research

Here comes the fun part: finding cheap used cars. For this, it is recommended that you take a two-pronged approach:

  • Search online marketplaces for vehicles that match your criteria, as it will give you an overview of car brands and models you should target with your budget. Here’s our recommendation of preliminary search parameters:
    • Price: Set it slightly above your budget (e.g. 10% – 20%), as there’s a great chance you’ll be able to bring that down through negotiation;
    • Age & Mileage: When searching for good used cars under $10,000 (or $5000), you’ll be looking at vehicles that are 10 years old and have at least 100,000 miles behind them at the minimum. Therefore, set these at 10 years and 150,000 miles, to begin with;
    • Vehicle history: Ideally, you want a single-owner, accident-free vehicle, but you might want to switch these parameters on/off to broaden the search. Whatever you do, be sure to stay away from salvage-title vehicles.
    • Location: Buying from local dealerships is an excellent choice, as it saves you unnecessary travel costs. Therefore, start locally and gradually expand your search area until you’re satisfied both with the selection and dealership distance from you.
  • Research brands and models that catch your eye, once you’ve narrowed down your search enough, but not completely. Online reviews, user discussions, and brand/model-specific forums should be your go-to. They’re a treasure trove of useful information and, in a lot of cases, you can find reviews from individuals with needs similar to your own.

Ultimately, you’re looking for a combination of reliability and a good price for a used car, with everything else being secondary. This means that your search may not come up with the exact make and model that you desire, but it will come up with a vehicle that will be your faithful companion for years to come.

Research cheap used car sellers

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to only a few options, you’ll be faced with another big decision: who to buy your car from. Here, you’ll have three distinct possibilities:

  • Private sellers give you the most room for negotiation, potentially leading to a good deal and a used car that both exceed set expectations. The downside is that you’ll typically have to take care of all the paperwork yourself and there will be no post-purchase services typically provided by other options on this list;
  • Dealerships generally have a wide selection of used vehicles and offer an array of benefits such as a streamlined buying process, financing options, extended warranties, and various post-purchase services. These conveniences mean that the starting price will be slightly higher, but most dealerships allow for a certain degree of negotiation, which is a big plus;
  • Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programs are offered only by manufacturers and their authorized dealers, and they guarantee that the car you’re purchasing is in excellent condition. CPO vehicles typically come with extended warranties, post-purchase services, and legal assurances but, also, with the highest price among all the options listed here.

Explore different financing options

Deciding how to buy a good used car on a budget without cashing out all the money instantaneously, will often drive you to look into different financing options. Bank loans, credit unions, and dealership programs are all valid options – but they’re not created equal.

Therefore, take the time to compare interest rates and loan terms from various providers, until you find the best option for your unique situation. It is also an excellent idea to get pre-approved, as it can reinforce your stand during the negotiation process.

One last thing that must be noted here is to stay away from cash-only transactions. Even if you find good used cars under $10,000 or $5,000, making cashing out a possibility, this leaves ample room for scams. Instead, go for options that leave a paper trail – just in case.

cheap used cars

How much should you spend on a good used car?

As a general rule of thumb, a good used car price should max out at around 35% of your annual net income. Do note that this is the absolute maximum experts recommend and the optimal expenditure you should aim for is around 15% – 20% of your net income.

Where to find cheap used cars for sale near me in Beaumont?

If you’re looking to get a car for cheap, B.Y.O.T. has a whole heap! Whether you’re looking for a fuel-efficient commuter, a safe and reliable family grouper, or your teen’s first sturdy trooper, we’ll give you an offer that’ll be beyond super! Our salvage yard at the Beaumont Municipal Airport vicinity is a world of possibility, holding vehicles of every make, model, and size just waiting to be your prize. Be sure to reach out because, with us around town, the best time to buy a car is now!