A lot of good used cars available, our shopping homework shows

02-26-How-to-Pick-a-Used-Car1-300x300Lots of people will buy used cars in 2014.

More than 40 million, in fact, comprising about 70 percent of total vehicle sales.

Deciding how much you can afford begins by taking a look at your family budget and determining your maximum monthly payments without taking away from other essential needs. That might mean purchasing a used car instead of a new one, as tempting as that bright, shiny new model might be.

But our research shows a lot of quality used cars are available that could allow you to avoid some of the costs of the first couple years of new-car ownership. We defined used cars as any vehicle earlier than the current model year – that is, 2013 and older, although the greatest bang for the buck occurs with vehicles two-years-old or older, after the original owner has taken the large depreciation hit.

Our favorite sources include the Consumer Reports “Best & Worst New Cars” edition because of the amount of worthwhile information provided for used-car and new-car buyers, alike, and comprises up to 10 years of car reviews. We also looked at Consumer Reports article “Best and Worst Used Cars” and listing of “The Best Used Vehicles for under $20,000” at consumerreports.org.

Our analysis of the Consumer Reports data revealed about three dozen vehicles in a wide price range that received positive evaluations over as many as 10 years. And it included another dozen or so vehicles that received positive reviews from CR over several years during the past decade.

That analysis showed Toyota, Honda, Acura and Lexus with the greatest number making our list, although Chevrolet, Ford, Infiniti, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Scion and Subaru models also were represented in our compilation of the vehicles with the best evaluations.

In “Best and Worst Used Cars” online, Consumer Reports identifies nearly two dozen models of cars and SUVs in four price ranges – from less than $10,000 to as much as $20,000-$25,000 – from the 2003-04 Infiniti FX SUV to the 2011-12 Hyundai Elantra sedan. And “The Best Used Vehicles for under $20,000” identifies 102 models in seven categories and three price ranges from 2003-12.

Of course, you can apply your own criteria to the evaluations to come up with a list that suits you — using Consumer Reports or other sources – but at least you now have a starting place.

And for more homework help, see “Buying a used car – a good idea – starts with online research” or other articles (search “used car”) on The Open Road blog at RoadLoans.com.

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