Buying a new car is the worst investment you could make besides buying Twitter stock. From the second you sign the papers, that hunk of metal is losing value. Every mile you drive, every ding, dent, crack, scratch, mar, or day out in the sun is money flying out of your pocket. To the original owner, this is tragic. For the second owner, who is looking for a deal, it’s great news. As the car depreciates, it becomes easier to buy on a budget, meaning more car for the money.
Every year there’s a flood of cars that land on the secondary market from years before. As leases run out and the overprivileged 1% who need even newer cars begin looking for a fresh way to waste their cash, used dealers end up with too many of certain makes and models. To get these off their lot, they hack the prices down to the bone, giving buyers a chance to nab some real steals. Bargain hunters who want quality without the tag will find these 11 used cars fit the bill in every way possible.
Used Car Buying Tips
There’s a few quick strategies that help when it comes to getting the most car for the price. When you shop and what you look at have massive effects on the effectiveness of your purchase power.
The later in the year you can wait to get a car, the more you’re going to save, should you opt to go through a dealer. Car lots only have a set amount of space, and they need to move inventory before new models arrive. Even used lots that don’t have a “New” segment of cars on their property are affected by this, as more people are unloading their used cars to buy new ones before the year comes to a close. When the snow flies, it’s time to think about upgrading your horseless carriage.
Buy 3-Year-Old Cars
A lease on a new car typically runs 3 years. As of publication, it’s 2017, so buyers will want to look at 2014 models to cover that three year gap. Dealers get flooded with leased cars that they now need to move. On top of which, they’re also dealing with the aforementioned new car conundrum, which makes them likely to push steel for crazy prices to get rid of it. Finding models that are newly out of leases gets you a lot more vehicle with a lot lower mileage than were you to go further back. Finding out what cars were popular for lease 3 years prior, and choosing from that selection is a safe bet.
Pro Tip: If you want to know which car models were heavily leased in the last three-plus years, they’re listed below. So keep reading. Yes, now.
Considered to either be Toyota’s less successful brother, or Ford’s snazziest competitor, Nissan lives in a curious niche. While other brands are scrambling to give people small SUV’s or crossover cars instead of mid-sized sedans, the Maxima has stayed the course. Called the “sporty 4-door” by Nissan itself, we’d call them out for lying if it wasn’t both fun to drive and roomy. The real appeal of the Maxima – aside from the paltry price – is the V6 that can really purr. The average soccer dad who still has some blood pumping in his veins, or soccer mom who enjoys laying rubber will enjoy the melding of utility and pure funk the Maxima brings in.
BMW 5 and 3 Series
It’s far easier to find a discounted 3-Series than 5 because the 5-Series doesn’t have the same draw. It was made to compete with the E-Class from Mercedes-Benz, and it does that well, but a large sedan with the same engine choices as the much cheaper 3-Series hasn’t seemed to catch on. Many people lease the 3-Series because it captures the smaller, nimbler nature that we’ve come to expect from BMW. Going big is fine, but the difference of thousands to get little more than a slightly prettier body with some cute interior accessories hasn’t brought all the drivers to the yard.
Mercedes-Benz C and E Classes
There’s little more than an academic difference between the C and E classes when you factor out size. The E-Class is your big, bold model. Though the E originally meant the engine was fuel-injected, Mercedes kept the marker even after all of its cars had fuel-injected engines. Now labeled the “Executive” an E-Class is the perfect mix between the bigger S-Class and the quicker, smaller, C-Class. If smaller size and better gas mileage is your goal, the “Compact” C-Class will serve you better.
Cadillac ATS and CTS
Luxury cars depreciate the fastest, as they’re loaded to the gills with features. All that extra tech wears out faster than the old school engine, making the wealthy feel less impressive to their serfs, and thus driving prices down. They are also more commonly leased than bought, since image is a major selling point. This keeps a rotation going into and out of dealerships regularly, allowing buyers to snap up status symbols for a song. The ATS build is aching to be a Beamer, with a fast body and agile handling that makes it a real pleasure to drive. Bigger, heavier, and made for families, the CTS is a good choice for a safe and moderately sporty sedan.
I was among those who knew Ford by it’s less popular acronym “F**king Only Runs Downhill.” It was a Focus that turned me around, somewhat. As a brand, Ford has a lot of holes, but is rapidly getting more hits than misses. The Focus is a quaint, reliable, durable, lovable small sedan. It started out decent and has climbed into rarefied air. Buyers who are considering a Toyota or Honda sedan should give the Focus a try. You’ll need to make peace with the obviously cheap interior. Easily done when it’s still going strong years, and many miles, down the line.
The Fusion isn’t as bulletproof as the Focus, but it isn’t far off, either. What it has that the Focus lacks is a wider range of engine options, including hybrid and eco-conscious choices that are smooth to drive, if not exactly powerhouses. Being able to find a wide variety for about half of what you’d pay to buy new, and the fact Fusions of a few years back have the same body as newer options help make this a good choice; should the Focus be too small or ugly for your liking.
A recently upgraded engine inside the Jetta has breathed extra life into the already sharp brand. Jettas aren’t leased quite as often as some, so you might need to burn a few extra calories to find one. Should you take the trouble, you’ll get a potential million mile runner that slips around city streets and urban sprawl like a cat burglar.
BMW and Mercedes are kicking Infiniti’s ass. Bad news for them, but good news for luxury buyers hoping to snag a steal. It’s hard not to compare the Q50 to the 3-Series, as they’re similar in every way, down to the cost. What the Q50 has that the 3-Series lacks is a sense of streamlined refinement, and true luxury. The 3-Series feels cluttered and can bear too many engine options for someone who isn’t shopping new. Conversely, the Q50 is natural, intuitive, and just as much fun to take on some dangerous curves.