For every vehicle on the used car market, there are always alternative makes and models that are similar in year, horsepower, shape, and price. You may have your heart set on a Subaru WRX for example. However, you could look at a Honda Civic Type R, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, or Toyota Camry TRD to make a comparison, and then decide which is the best value and ticks the most boxes. There are also different engine types, fuel types, and trim levels within a certain model. So, what are the 10 essential factors to consider when comparing two or more cars?
Mileage plays a big part when it comes to used cars. Remember the lower the mileage, the less wear and tear not only to the engine, but also the body, tires, and suspension. If you are looking at two or three used cars to buy, mileage may be the deciding factor when selecting the best option. A few hundred or a few thousand miles doesn’t really matter, but once you get over eight thousand miles in difference, start looking at the other examples on the market.
There are two ways to check the condition of a used car. The first is a thorough visual check yourself around the door frames, around the bonnet and trunk latches, and under the car for rust or repaired damage, any cracks on the windscreen, wear and tear on the pedals, seats, gear stick, and door cards. The second is a professional check where a qualified mechanic can check the health of the engine, the suspension, the transmission, and any previously repaired damage unseen by the eye. Finding a car that has had only one owner is a real bonus as you can find out the whole life of the car, whether it has been garaged, how it has been driven (long trips or short commutes), and how regular maintenance was carried out.
Safety in the car industry has improved over the years. In fact all cars produced after the year 2000 are remarkably better than those from last century, although there are some exceptions that are worse than others. However, it’s always advisable that you do a safety check on any used car you are thinking of buying for recalls involving airbags, as these can be faulty in some makes and models. Ensure they have been professionally repaired by an authorized dealer before you purchase a car. There are two websites you should use to find out your cars safety rating and if there are any recalls. The first is The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( IIHS), and Kelley Blue Book for any recalls on a vehicle model (hover over the ‘Car Repair’ page and click on ‘Car Recalls’ to enter the cars information).
Budget is always at the forefront of any used car purchase. By comparing different makes you may be surprised at the difference between the popular model (or a rare model), and a similar model by another company that hasn’t sold as well. For example the 2-wheel drive, 8-cyclinder 2007 Jaguar XK Coupe which I found with 94,000 miles for $13,490, compared to a BMW 650i Coupe from the same year with the same 2-wheel drive, the same 8 cylinders and the same mileage for $10,999. The saving is $2,491. There are larger savings to be had on other cars, but this gives you an idea of what you can achieve if you shop around.
You don’t have to look at other makes to find a huge difference in horsepower within a certain model. For example, the 2008-2011 Audi A4 starts with a 1.8 liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine, and works through ten more engine variations until it reaches a 4.0 liter V8 performance RS4 Quattro model.
This is one you will have to try out for yourself. If you are considering two or more makes and models to purchase, then it makes sense to test drive all of them to get a better feel for the car, where comfort plays a huge factor. Make sure the seats do as they are supposed to and adjust to your comfort level. Comfort is not only about the seats however, but also how easy it is to see out the back and rear side windows, how confident you are to control and park the car, and the ease-of-use of all the controls and gadgets inside the cabin. Trim levels can play an important part deciding whether you want leather or fabric seats and if the car offers anything other than black trim to lighten the interior.
Design is something each individual has a different opinion on. While a Mini Countryman may appeal to one person, a Subaru XV may suit someone else’s needs. But it’s first impressions that make us choose one car over another. However, design doesn’t just relate to the visual appeal of the exterior. It also applies to practicality, amount of headroom, legroom, and the ability to see well out of the rear window. The amount of trunk space, the ability to fold down seats for large items, and the size of the car also come into play.
8. Accessories / Trim Levels
This is the fun part, because some makes and models have far more options available than others. Take the fifth generation Ford Mustang (2005-2014) for example. It has so many editions and packages, trim levels and engine sizes that you are literally spoiled for choice. The editions include the ‘Shelby GT500’, ‘Shelby GT500KR’, the ‘Mustang Boss 302’, ‘Mustang Boss Laguna Seca’, the ‘45th Anniversary Edition GT’, ‘Cobra Jet’, the ‘Bullitt’, ‘GT California Special’, and the ‘U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Edition 2014 GT’. I’ll leave the rest to you to research. But other cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution for example have a ton of after-market accessories, and what you can’t find you can have made-to-order by specialist car accessory outlets.
There are so many costs involved in buying a used car, and one of them is the ongoing cost of maintaining your car. Sure you may be tempted by a 2013 BMW 320i sedan for cool sporty looks and beige leather seats, but BMW are notoriously known for the highest maintenance costs overall. Remember you will be getting the car serviced regularly to avoid any major repairs which will cost thousands – and I mean thousands. Check out a comparable 2013 Toyota Camry or 2013 Honda Accord sedan and you will save thousands on maintenance costs. You want to be able to afford driving your car around town, not having it sit on the driveway.
10. Fuel Efficiency
This can tip your choice of which car to buy quite easily. A gas-guzzling 5.0 liter 8-cylinder Ford Mustang that can travel 15 city miles and 24 highway miles on a single gallon might not be on your radar, instead preferring the lighter 1.2 liter 3-cylinder Mitsubishi Mirage which gets you more than double that distance in the city with 33 miles and 41 highway miles.
There are a lot of factors to consider when comparing cars. Start with the most important ones for you, and work your way through the rest until you decide on the best possible car for you and your needs.