How and Where to Find the Cheapest Cars
Cheap cars can be found and purchased from a variety of sources. Generally, people who are looking for inexpensive cars are simply attempting to find the best car that meets their needs, at the lowest possible cost.
For those who are looking for affordable cars, there are essentially three categories of options available to them — cheap new cars, cheap used cars, and cheap leased cars.
Let’s focus mainly on used or pre-owned cars.
Used cars at low prices are available from dealers, individuals, auctions, and on the Internet. Considerable care must be taken when buying pre-owned cars because most are sold “as-is” and will come without a guarantee or warranty. Certified cars, usually sold by new-car dealers, are previously-owned cars that have been inspected and come with short warranties, but can be more expensive.
Best places to look for cheap carsUsed-Cars at New-Car Dealers – Most new-car dealers typically sell both new cars and pre-owned cars. Although inexpensive cars can often be found on these lots, most new-car dealers only offer late-model used vehicles that have been taken in trade or are off-lease, and are in good condition — and are relatively expensive. Older, less expensive vehicles are usually sent to auction to be purchased by independent used-car dealers (see below) and BHPH dealers (see below). Therefore, check your local new-car dealers when looking for a car but also look at other sources listed below. Independent Used-Car Dealers – Independent used-car lots (not associated with a new-car dealer) are a potential source of affordable second-hand cars. Many lots have older vehicles that can be real bargains — or not. Proper caution should be taken to determine if the price is fair and that the vehicle has no hidden problems. Most used cars are sold “as-is” and come without any kind of warranty or return policy. See Buying a Used Car for more details. Consignment Lots – Many towns and cities have used-car consignment lots which can be a good source of inexpensive vehicles. Sellers display their cars-for-sale on the consignment lot for a fee. Lot managers are often authorized by car owners to negotiate prices with potential buyers, or buyers may be directed back to the seller to discuss prices. Buy-Here-Pay-Here (BHPH) Dealers – This is a special type of independent used-car dealer that provides in-house financing, usually with no credit check. Most BHPH dealers are local and can be recognized by their “we finance anyone” or “no credit check” banners. Be aware that their cars are often overpriced, not in great condition, and interest rates are usually very high with strict payment terms. Use extreme caution when buying from this kind of dealer.
Damaged Cars – Low cost cars can often be found at sources of salvage Cars – damaged cars, although some repairs are often necessary. Salvage auctions and insurance auctions are another possible source of cheap cars and project cars for sale. Obviously, a lot of caution must be taken to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying but, if done correctly, some great deals can be had this way. See our article, Damaged Cars for Cheap Deals, for more details. Police Auctions – Law enforcement agencies seize and impound vehicles from law-breakers and sell them at public police impound auctions, for bargain prices. Many are high-end late-model luxury vehicles in perfect condition. These agencies also sell surplus vehicles that are being replaced with newer vehicles. These auctions are conducted regularly and are open to the public. See our article, Police Auctions, for more details. Repossessed Cars – Repo Car Sales and Auctions are a good source of cheap cars. Banks repossess cars from customers who stop making payments and default on loans. They must sell these repo cars to recover the remaining loan balance. Bargains are not difficult to find if you know how and where to look. See our article, Repossessed Cars, for more details. Unclaimed and Abandoned Car Auctions – Cities and towing companies pick up unclaimed abandoned vehicles every day from the sides of streets, highways, and parking lots. They try to find the owners, but if they can’t, the cars are sold at auction, often for almost nothing. The cars can range from junkers to almost-new vehicles. See Unclaimed and Abandoned Car Auctions for more details.
Watch out for online car buying scam
Be aware of a common car selling scam in which an online seller offers a nice car for a price that seems too good to be true. This scam is very common on web sites such as Craigslist and Autotrader. It is almost impossible to spot the scam from the ads, except that the price seems to be unbelievably low. If you fall for the scam, you’ll lose your money and you’ll never see the car you “bought.”
Get your car inspected
Regardless of where you decide to buy your cheap car, you should have the vehicle thoroughly inspected, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it. By doing so, you’ll protect yourself from making serious mistakes that can’t be corrected later. Look in your telephone yellow pages for “vehicle inspection service” or go to a local car service shop. Although there will be a small cost, it’s a good investment. Also get a CARFAX Vehicle History Report to make sure your car doesn’t have a hidden salvage title and has never been wrecked.
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If you need a loan
Used car loans are available from banks, credit unions, and online loan companies such as Auto Credit Express, that specialize in getting auto loans for people with poor credit. If you have bad credit, getting approved might be difficult, though not impossible. It’s best to get preapproved so that you’ll know exactly how much you are allowed to borrow. Read our article, Bad Credit Car Loans, for more information.
Best prices on brand new cars
Car manufacturers are constantly offering rebates and other incentives that make some brand new cars cheaper than late model used cars. It’s easy enough to ask for free no-obligation price quotes from local dealers to find out. Try TrueCar.com for some of the best prices from dealers in your area.
Cheap cars are available from many different places including consignment lots, police impound auctions, government seized and surplus auctions, repossessed vehicle sales, online used car web sites, and rental car sales. You may have to invest a little time and effort to find them but the results can be rewarding.