Which brand of used vehicle is the best bet in overall value and performance
And should I consult a mechanic before making a decision
In the no size fits all category this would rank at the very top. First you need to decide what is important to you. Is it gas mileage? Performance and fun? Reliability and ease of service? Initial cost? Image? All these and many other factors must be factored in. So lets dive in and take a look at what is available to scratch whatever itch Sacramento used car buyers have.
Gas mileage is of course of paramount importance these days of inflated prices at the pump and uncertainty. Most of the imports such as Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and their cousin the Kia products are renowned for gatting maximum MPG. But the domestic Chevy and Ford have made great strides and in some cases even exceed those brands. Best bet is to check with a vehicle selection guide book at your friendly Barnes and Nobles and use the new model indicator for a guide post as a sales person frankly would not have a reliable source of information handy. Generally the smaller the car the better the mileage and the front drive models do the best. If mileage is not that important and you choose to go the SUV route then the front drive models are far superior to the rear wheel drive, body on frame ones but safety may be compromised a bit in those as compared to the heavier and more sturdy rear drive. Trucks are a different breed of cat. They all burn far more fuel than the passenger cars. Overall the Chevy and the GMC have had a better rep than that of the Ram and F150 as far as mileage is my experience.
Performance and fun. One simple rule of thumb. It costs both at the point of sale and in mileage and insurance costs. But if you just must some pretty good values in a preowned sporty type vehicle are the Mustangs, Dodge Challenger, Hyundai and Kia coupes and of course the Beetle Convertibles. And the resale is generally good as there is an active and continuing demand for these.
Reliability is pretty darn good on all vehicles anymore. Change the oil, do the service and drive sensibly and you will probably be shocked at how long the service life is on you brand new used car. As far as cost of parts and repair it is probably best to stay in the middle of the road as far as model selection. Parts availabilty and cost and general service is far less on a Ford or Chevy for instance than it would be on a Mercedes or any import generally.
Initial cost is a by product of demand. Expect to pay more for a Toyota Camry than you would for a Chevy Malibu. Expect to pay even more for a Acura than a Toyota. Part of the extra cost is the intial cost new of course but that is not always the case. Example: you can be expected to pay as much of more for a comparable four year old Honda Accord than for a four year old luxury car. And if a bargain per mile is important then the domestic Chevy and Ford models are great as they cost fewer dollars used than the imports. But the best buys of all would be the preowned Dodge models as they are even less than the Ford and Chevy vehicles generally. And just as reliable.
Lastly what of image. One would have to assume that as a used vehicle intender you are more practical than the average buyer so this would not be of great concern. But that would be an untrue assumption in many cases. Hondas are a image builder among the younger set. Many young men like to tool around in a Silverado, Ram or F150 pickup and those are sure image builders among certain demographics. And convertible are sure fire winners among many particularly of the female gender but not always.
With a decision to make I would surmise that among the midsize auto buyers which is a huge segment if value is your thing it would be hard to go against the Chevy Malibu or the Ford Fusion. If you like both value and are willing to pay a little more for image then go for an Accord, Camry or Altima. Trucks and Suvs choices are a little more personal taste.
For a professional opinion I asked Paul Blanco of the Paul Blanco Good Car Company with quality used car locations in Sacramento, Stockton and Fresno. His advice is to always go for what your first instinct is and always take your first choice to a mechanic before you plunk down your hard earned cash. That sounds like good advice to me.
Frank Creech | Auto Guru
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