It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the challenges of buying a used up car. Given that we’ve just had a new addition to The Garage, it might make some sense to touch on used car buying again. This time though, we’ll go over how you can educate yourself about a specific car and save a bunch of cash along the way, without using the help of a sales pro.
Most of us have a pretty good idea what we want when we start looking for a car. If you have the luxury of time, you can learn more about your new car than most dealers know. Why not take this knowledge and learn what the local pricing is along the way and you can likely save yourself a bundle. In my case, I fell in love with Nissan’s Xterra back in the fall of 99 when it appeared as a 2000 model. Afterwards, I spent 5 years as a Nissan Service Manager and became active in a local Xterra club. Along the way, I was lucky to drive many demo units in all different colours and trim levels. In other words, I got to know the trucks pretty well.
As a service guy, I know the strengths and weaknesses of the Xterra and know what to look for when I give a truck the once over. What I don’t have is great sales skills. I do have a huge network of friends in the industry however, so I figured it would be pretty easy to find a decent high mileage truck for a wholesale price. Was I ever wrong! The Xterra has a pretty strong cult following and high mileage trucks seem to disappear almost before they hit the market. They don’t even seem to appear at auction very often.
While my network kept their eyes open for a vehicle, I studied the retail used car market daily. Between AutoTrader and Craigslist, I learned about the real world value of my specific target vehicle. I found that the cheaper ones would often be sold as early as 6 am on the day the listing went online, regardless of condition or mileage. I was going to have to move quickly when a listing came up that looked interesting.
Last Thursday, in the middle of the afternoon an ad popped up on AutoTrader that looked promising, so I made yet another call and had to leave a message. I didn’t hear back right away so I assumed I’d missed another one. Monday, the seller called. I had been the first caller and he was away for the weekend. I arranged to head out to Hamilton on Tuesday to see the truck. He was asking a price for the truck that was pretty close to wholesale and I only asked for him to knock off a couple of hundred bucks to allow for a leaky exhaust manifold that would need to be fixed.
So now we have a new to us, black 2000 Xterra 5 speed in The Garage that we scored for a great price. Once we clean it within an inch of it’s life and fix the manifold, we’ll have a truck that could easily sell for a couple of grand more than we paid.
The key to this story is that I studied the market for a couple of months to see what kind of prices used Xterras were fetching in our market, coupled that with my knowledge of the vehicle and scored a great deal. You can do the same. The only difference is that if you don’t have the techie knowhow, you would want to include a trusted mechanic in your inspection. That extra hundred dollars will go a long way towards saving yourself thousands!