Used Car Shopping: Consumer Reports Says to Pay More Attention to Vehicle Age Rather Than Mileage

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Alex Healey
Updated on Jun 27, 2022 · 3 min read
Over the last few months, the price of used cars has skyrocketed, but there are signs that
prices are coming back down
and now is a good time to start looking for your next vehicle.
For millions of Americans,
buying a car
is one of the biggest financial decisions they will ever make, so it’s important to do some research and choose wisely.
The need for caution is amplified when buying a used car, because depending on the
Lemon Laws
in your state, you could get stuck with a dud.
So how do you know when you have found a good deal? Well, one way is to look at the odometer.
It is generally assumed that a lower mileage is better, but according to one report, a vehicle’s age is a better indicator of value.
Used car shopping is often a stressful experience.

Used car age vs. mileage: which is more important?

There are horror stories about people buying cars which should have gone straight to the junkyard, but if you do your homework, you can
safely buy a used car
. One of the most important considerations is the vehicle’s age. In fact, according to
Consumer Reports
(CR), this is more important than the mileage.
While every car is different, CR warns shoppers that an unusually low mileage might indicate the car has been sitting for a long time.
If this is the case, you really want to look it over. Aside from a drained battery and flat tires, idle cars are also susceptible to brittle gaskets and seals, rust, and gummed up fuel lines.
On the other hand, if you opt for a newer model, even one with a relatively high mileage, you can enjoy better fuel economy and safety features.
Director of Operations at CR’s Auto Test Center, Jennifer Stockburger, says "I would lean more toward newer vehicles....Think about things like electronic stability control, backup cameras, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. The older the vehicle you get, the more likely you may not get one of these key safety advances."

How to inspect a used car

First of all, look under the hood and at the body work for signs of repairs. Ask if the repairs were done by a qualified mechanic. Take the car for a test drive and listen out for any unusual sounds.
If you know nothing about cars or are too shy to ask tough questions, bring an experienced friend who can help you check if the
used car is a lemon
.
Before closing the deal, take the vehicle to a repair shop that specializes in diagnostics. According to Consumer Reports, a thorough inspection should cost around $150, and will include a written summary of the car’s condition.
Don’t forget to get a Carfax report, too. This will reveal the car’s accident history and whether it has been subjected to any recalls.

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