How Do You Know You’re Paying a Fair Price for a Used Car?

A clean-cut salesman in a suit discusses used car prices with a couple at the dealership

No one likes to go through the process of buying a car. It can be stressful, irritating, and confusing, especially when you’re looking for an affordable but well-maintained used vehicle. If you’re searching for cheap cars for sale in Sacramento, you’ve probably come across the question of how much you should spend on a used car. Depending on who you ask, what your requirements are, and where you look, the answer can vary. However, the average for California residents is around $34,000 for a used car between one and five years old. Of course, many of us have less to spend and are looking for something cheaper.

California resides on the lower end of the national average price for used cars. However, prices will depend on a few variables like the dealership, special offers, demand for the specific model, and the like. Generally speaking, you can find a used car between 5-10 years old for a considerably lower price. Some things you might want to consider when looking at used cars are your finances, the type of car you want, its purpose, and the features you would like to have, as that can raise or lower the cost.

Consider Your Financial Situation

Whether you can purchase a used car for cash or want to secure financing, take stock of your financial situation and consider what options you have available. Have you saved up money for a sizable down payment? How much of your monthly budget can be allocated to a car payment? Do you have enough to pay half, three-quarters, or the entirety of the asking price? The answers to these questions will determine your overall budget and what sort of used car you can afford without breaking the bank.

You can also trade in your current vehicle and put that money toward your next car, but how much value your old ride has will depend on how you’ve taken care of it, if it has any outstanding issues, the condition you bought it in, and if you’ve upgraded it at all. If it’s in pretty good condition, you can get the interior detailed, give it a good wash, take off any stickers or magnets you might have decorated with, and get some good money for it. Just remember to bring the car’s title with you so that we can take it off your hands.

Occasionally, we will run specials here at Future Ford of Sacramento. Other times, we sell our demo cars. It never hurts to ask if there’s a demo car or lease return coming up for sale or if we know when the next special or sale will be. The more information you have on hand about what we offer, the better chance you have of saving a little money or even a hefty sum, which can go toward other things like car maintenance, accessories, or the next several car washes.

A car salesman holding up a key while sitting at their desk.

What Is the Purpose of This New-To-You Vehicle?

Most drivers need a vehicle to get them around town during the week and don’t use it for much else. Others might need something to cart their family to weekend events or enable their small business. What do you need your used vehicle to do? This will determine what type of car you should look at, though there’s nothing wrong with doing a little window shopping or daydreaming about a different type from the one you know is the most practical for your lifestyle. Don’t get caught up in wishful thinking, though. No matter what, you need a vehicle that you can afford and that also matches up with most of your checklist. Don’t fall for something you can’t afford and then talk yourself into trying to make it work. Use common sense and think practically.

Compact sedans and SUVs are the most common types of cheap cars for sale, but they’re part of a wide range of options, and it can get overwhelming at times. Think about what you’ll be using the car for the most, and then see which type fits that purpose best. If you’re on your own or live with a partner, then a small sedan might be the most appealing choice. If you’ve got an average size family, an SUV would likely be better. If you drive for Lyft or Uber, you might want to consider a larger car. Whatever type of used car you decide on, know that you’ll probably be driving it for the next several years and that it will have to meet all your needs, not just one or two of them.

Consider Any Special Features Your Want

Some drivers prefer a stripped-down, lower-trim level vehicle, which will let them stay within their budget while getting a newer car. Others might want to look for older cars in high-end trims that come packed with features. Depending on your driving style, how long you’ll be in the car, and which options you find helpful, you’ll want to make a list of all the features you require in your next car. Do you like being able to connect your Android or Apple phone to the infotainment center? Would you like heated seats? What about things like collision alerts, a rearview camera, multiple USB ports, or SiriusXM satellite radio?

Used cars, no matter their trim level, will be less expensive than purchasing a new car, and they’ll retain their value at a much higher rate. This means that even if you can’t pay the full price outright, you can still get a better-quality car. When you speak with us and tell us what you’re looking for, be sure to mention which trim levels you’re interested in and what features you need to have in your next car. You’ll save yourself time by knowing exactly what you’re looking for, and you won’t have to deal with a base trim level that doesn’t come with the features you were looking forward to the most.

Common features our customers often search for include heated and ventilated seats, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning, big infotainment touchscreens, and wireless hotspots. Make a short list of what you want and see if the car you need has a trim level that includes most of the features that would make your life easier. You may not find the exact fit, but you’ll be able to get pretty close, all without having to go through multiple hoops before finding out that the features you wanted were discontinued in a previous model year.

Overhead view of a car salesman speaking with a customer that's test-driving a blue used car.

Spend What You Can Afford

Looking for a cheap car can become disheartening. Every year the prices seem to go up, and with vehicles always in demand, you may not get your first, second, or even third choice. However, shopping after you’ve armed yourself with knowledge of pricing and your list of requirements will make things much easier, and with a bit of luck, you’ll be able to get your hands on something versatile and fun. Remember that you can check out our inventory online, call to speak with our sales representatives, or drop by our dealership to browse the lot and have a conversation with one of our representatives.

If you’re able to spend a few hundred dollars a month on a car payment, go for it. If you have the savings for a large down payment or an old car with good trade-in value, use it. Got the entire amount? Go ahead and buy your new car outright. Whatever you can afford, do that. Don’t waste your time hemming and hawing while wondering if you could possibly squeak by if you worked a few more hours a week. That’s a guaranteed way to make you detest the entire process, put it off, or forego it altogether. You deserve a quality, well-maintained vehicle. Don’t be impatient and rush through the process. Keeping a steady head and glancing at your list every so often will help you stay on track, and you might even be able to find a better-than-average deal.

Looking to buy a cheap car? Visit us at Future Ford of Sacramento––we have an incredible inventory of new and used vehicles just waiting for you to glance their way. Let us help you avoid the hassle of visiting multiple dealerships, the stress of attempting to buy privately, and the frustration of knowing a dealership isn’t giving you a good deal. We’re happy to assist and look forward to seeing you!


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