Buying a used car these days is an adventure. Kind of...
I started, like I always start, by deciding that I need to replace one of my vehicles...maybe. Then I decide how much I am willing to spend. I find this a good approach because it immediately narrows down the number of automobiles to evaluate. What I am willing to spend slowly increased with time as I discover more and more cars that don't fit my self imposed budget. Before I know it (actually I know it all along) my budget slowly creeps up so it will include some additional vehicles.
I used the internet to search for vehicles and investigate gas mileage figures and resale values. I was discouraged by several of my findings.
1 - Many late model cars seem to have many more miles on them than I want a prospective buy to have. I guess a lot of people drive many more miles per year than I do. Even though I know cars last longer than they use to I don't want to buy a car that I expect to drive every day to have 90 or 100 thousand miles on it to start.
2 - The number of miles on the odometer doesn't seem to have that much effect on what dealers expect to sell their cars for. An 07 for instance will be listed for much more money than an 05 that has fewer miles on it. That may or may not make the 05 a better buy. It does however make it fit my budget better.
3 - Even in a so-called depressed used car market I found that the more desirable cars were selling quickly. On my first excursion to look at a car I found on the internet it had already been sold. I learned to call first before you travel any distance to see a car.
4 - Why is it that the best buys seem to be the farthest distance away from my home?
Once you start looking at vehicles "in the metal (and plastic)" make sure you take time to let the "initial glow" dim a little. In my experience, some cars just say "buy me", "buy me" at first sight and it is too easy to overlook some obvious shortcomings during this "love at first sight" period. I know...I know...someone might buy it out from under you but you'll regret it later if you jump in without first convincing yourself that you really can live without it. When working with a dealer it is always best to give the impression that you can walk away if the deal isn't exactly what you are willing to pay. They want to sell you a car. And it's to your advantage if they want to sell more than you want to buy.
The last thing to remember is they will never offer you the lowest price they are willing to accept. Always be prepared to counter their first offer, and maybe the second or third. Collecting used car values from Edmonds and Kelly Blue book are good guides but those are averages and may not reflect the value of vehicles in your area. You should work to achieve a price that you are happy with before you buy. I don't believe there is such a thing as a good buy on an automobile. There are better buys and worse buys but most every car depreciates rapidly and is worth less and less as time goes by.