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15 False Beliefs About Used Cars That Lead to Overspending

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False beliefs about used cars that lead to overspending often stem from misconceptions about their reliability and value. For instance, many buyers mistakenly think that all used cars are prone to frequent breakdowns. By debunking these myths, consumers can make more informed decisions and find affordable, dependable vehicles.

1. Newer is Always Better

Big is not always better
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Reality Check: A 2018 study by Consumer Reports revealed that many used cars are as reliable as new ones. Sometimes, a well-maintained 5-year-old car can outshine a brand new, but lower-tier model. So, don’t just go by the year; go by the car’s condition and history.

2. High Mileage Equals High Risk

Novosibirsk, Russia June 28, 2019 Mitsubishi Galant
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The Truth on the Odometer: Believe it or not, high mileage isn’t the death knell for cars. According to a 2020 study by J.D. Power, vehicles with higher mileage often have fewer problems due to consistent usage and maintenance.

3. A Good Deal Today is a Good Deal Tomorrow

Big discount. Great choices great purchases.
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Market Fluctuations: The used car market is as fickle as a cat on a hot tin roof. What’s a steal today could be overpriced tomorrow. Don’t rush; research and understand market trends.

4. All Used Cars are Lemons

Lemon on white background
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Bitter Truth?: This is a sour misconception. Many used cars are in excellent condition. Always get a pre-purchase inspection to squeeze out any doubts.

5. Dealerships are Always More Expensive

Man holding money bag and paper car
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Costly Assumption: Not always. Dealerships sometimes offer warranties and certified pre-owned programs, adding value to your purchase. Plus, they can’t afford the reputational damage of selling a dud.

6. Private Sellers = Best Deals

Health Investment Over Health Insurance
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Think Twice: Private deals can be great, but they’re a mixed bag. There’s less legal protection if things go south, so do your due diligence.

7. Extended Warranties are a Waste

Warranty desktop memo calculator office think organize
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Safety Net or Money Pit?: It depends. For some high-maintenance models, an extended warranty can be a lifesaver. A study by U.S. News & World Report suggests that for certain brands known for reliability issues, an extended warranty might actually save you money in the long run.

8. Accident Cars are a No-Go

Accident Cars are a No-Go
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Not Necessarily a Deal-Breaker: A car that’s been in a fender bender isn’t automatically a bad choice. Some accident cars, if repaired properly, can be just as reliable as their accident-free counterparts. The key is a thorough inspection and a good repair history.

9. Cash Payments Lead to Better Deals

American dollars and hands
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Cash Isn’t Always King: This one is tricky. While some sellers might prefer cash, it doesn’t always guarantee a better deal. Financing options can sometimes open doors to negotiations that cash can’t.

10. Avoid Discontinued Models

Sci-fi mecha soldier standing. Military futuristic robot.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Hidden Gems: Just because a model is discontinued doesn’t mean it’s undesirable. Often, these cars offer great value and are still supported by the manufacturer.

11. You Can Judge a Car by Its Exterior

You Can Judge a Car by Its Exterior
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Skin Deep: A shiny exterior doesn’t always signify a healthy interior. Always check under the hood and consider a mechanical inspection.

12. Certified Pre-Owned Cars are Overpriced

Happy couple with car dealer in auto show or salon
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Worth the Premium?: Not necessarily. These cars often come with extended warranties and have gone through rigorous inspections, which can offer peace of mind.

13. Avoid High-Maintenance Brands

Young girl in a shop buying clothes
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Brand Bias: While some brands are known for higher maintenance costs, this doesn’t mean you should avoid them entirely. Sometimes, the driving experience and satisfaction they offer can outweigh the maintenance costs.

14. Older Cars are Less Safe

A closeup shot of the front of a car with a turned on light
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Safety Evolution: It’s a common belief that newer cars are inherently safer due to advancements in safety technology. However, many older cars are still quite safe and meet or exceed safety standards at the time of their manufacture. It’s important to look at the car’s safety features and crash test ratings, not just its age.

15. Manual Transmissions are Always Cheaper to Repair

Man hand holding manual transmission
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Shifting Costs: While it’s true that manual transmissions have historically been cheaper to repair and maintain than automatics, the gap has narrowed with modern advancements. Today’s automatic transmissions are more reliable and their repair costs have decreased, while parts and labor for manual transmissions can sometimes be more expensive due to less commonality and fewer specialists.

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