Want a good car for a good price? This is the time to go the used-car route, especially if you are looking for a late-model vehicle.
Perhaps at no other time in automotive history has there been so many quality used cars on the market.
What's going on?
Many two-, three- and four-year leases are expiring. Rental car companies are selling vehicles from their fleets because of a slowdown in travel. And because consumers often trade in cars when they buy new ones, the incentives dealers have offered on new cars cash rebates and low interest rates, including zero interest have resulted in a lot more trade-ins than the industry expected.
All those factors have brought prices on used cars down about $2,000 to $3,000 lower than they were several months ago, according to a spokesman for cars.com, an online resource that helps consumers search for used and new vehicles.
A number of other excellent Internet sites (edmunds.com, autotrader.com, carfax.com, intellichoice.com) also help buyers in their search for reliable, safe used cars at fair prices.
"The Internet has made a big difference in the used-car market," said Bill Swislow, vice president and executive producer for cars.com. "The Internet has allowed consumers to become more comfortable and knowledgeable about the car they are buying."
Buying a used car still comes with some risk. You could get someone else's lemon.
Fortunately, there are now many resources Internet and otherwise to help you research a vehicle's price, reliability, safety and history.
You might want to start with the Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide for 2002. It will cost you about $10 and you get a comprehensive report on the most reliable used cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, wagons and minivans.
To check for a history of safety recalls on a vehicle, Consumer Reports recommends calling (800) 424-9393 or going to www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
Other safety sites to check include www.autosafety.org and www.lemonaidcars.com. For a fee, Carfax (www.carfax .com) will check a vehicle's history for hidden problems. Edmunds.com provides used-car reviews, prices and advice.
If you're still worried about buying someone else's trouble, you might want to try a certified used car. Many dealers are offering late-model, relatively low-mileage used cars and trucks with no history of major damage. These vehicles are usually more expensive, but often are covered by a warranty that extends beyond the original factory warranty.
Intellichoice.com rates many of the certified or preowned used-car programs.
If you do your homework, you can save thousands of dollars by buying a used car. For example, I did a little research to find a good used car for under $10,000.
I looked over the Consumer Reports list of used cars that have shown above-average reliability. I picked the 1996 Toyota Camry LE. Then I checked with cars.com, where they found a 1996 Camry for $8,995 with 66,756 miles. The invoice price for a 2002 Toyota Camry LE with similar features is $19,810, according to cars.com. That's a difference of $10,815.
With deals like this available, I don't think I'll ever buy a new car again.
And I know I won't have to buy new thanks to people who trade in perfectly good cars for no good reason other than they just have to have the latest model of whatever often before they have even paid off their current loan.