How to Find the Best Used SUV for Sale

March 18, 2013

Finding the best used SUV for sale involves determining maintenance costs, checking accessories, test driving, and getting vehicle history reports.

SUVs For Sale

Finding the best used SUV for sale can be a tricky proposition due mainly to the fact that there are so many different sport utility vehicles to choose from these days. The advent of newer crossover vehicle styles as well as the inherent reliability of some older sport utility vehicles makes for a variety of choices for the used SUV shopper. But don't let an over-abundance of options get you overwhelmed. Follow these simple steps to identify the perfect used SUV:

Identify Your Needs in a Used SUV
Everyone has different needs when it comes to a vehicle. A decision on what SUV to by will depend partially on where you live and how you are going to use your vehicle. If you plan on moving more cargo than people, something with easily removable rear seats and a wide rear cargo compartment, such as a Chevy Tahoe or a Ford Expedition may be better for your needs than a streamlined sporty model. All wheel drive and four-wheel drive models are also nice, but can be unnecessary in many areas - such as in the city. While the extra options may sound nice, they will also add to the price of the vehicle.

Find Out How the SUV Has Been Used
One of the wonderful things about many SUV's is the ability for them to function as competently in some tasks as a pickup truck. However, this can be a downside for some second-hand owners. While a hard working life may not be a sure indication of early demise, it is definitely a factor to consider. Heavy off-road use is especially taxing, and should be considered a negative. Make sure to inquire with the previous owner or dealer as to what the vehicle has previously been used for. A Vehicle History Report (VHR) can also help you identify if the SUV has been in any major accidents.

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Test Drive Different Sizes
If you have the ability to take your pick from the broad range of SUV sizes, it's worth taking the time to drive a number of different sized autos to find which makes you the most comfortable. Don't forget to factor in your environment as well. If you plan on a lot of driving in congested urban areas it may be worth looking at something on the smaller side of things. This may also help keep your fuel bills lower. At the very least, it will make parallel parking less stressful.

Make Sure All the Extras Work
If the used SUV you're considering is equipped with entertainment add-ons, (TV, DVD etc..) make sure they all work. Obviously issues with these items won't leave you on the side of the road, but fixing broken components can be pricey. Additionally, if the SUV has selectable four-wheel drive it's a good idea to make sure the transition process from two-wheel to four-wheel drive is smooth.

Find Out How Much Maintenance Will Cost
The extra "truck like" components in some SUV's will require maintenance not generally necessary on many other automobiles. For instance, four-wheel drive components require regular attention to keep them in dependable working order. Another sometimes surprising cost can come in the form of tires. As any careful observer will note, larger SUV's will require tires that are substantially bigger than what is found on many smaller vehicles. These larger tires are priced accordingly, so this is an important factor to consider when finding the perfect match for your transportation needs.

Dealing with SUV Dealers: Price Negotiation Tips

There are a lot of SUV dealers that either sell new or used SUVs, and a quick visit to the dealer lot will give you an idea on the right kind of SUV to buy. Understand the fact that dealers operate on the principle of earning income and will post profit for every car that they sell. It is then imperative to sharpen your negotiation skills before hitting the showroom or dealer lot.

New Truck and SUV Dealers
Buying brand new is always the best option if your budget allows it. Brand new SUVs are obviously more expensive, but come with a full warranty. It would be best to visit multiple dealers to get the lowest price out of the desired SUV. It would also be imperative to do proper research and arm yourself with vital information in regards to pricing.

SUV dealers and distributors often have special packages that make the purchase more attractive to the car buyer, and it would be best to study the offer before signing on the dotted line. Accessories such as floor mats, fog lamps, window tints and other options will increase the price of the purchase. It would be cheaper to have these accessories installed outside the dealership.

Used SUV Dealers
You will save more money when buying a used SUV. Consult the local newspaper or the Internet for the estimated market value of the chosen used SUV. Take the truck for a test drive and fully inspect the engine bay and interior to check for overall condition. You could negotiate a lower price if you manage to find certain discrepancies such as worn interior, absence of a spare tire, dents on the body panel and other irregularities that you discover in the test drive (such as worn suspension parts).

The overall condition of the SUV will determine the price or value as dictated by the seller. When buying a used SUV, it would be best to bring a knowledgeable mechanic to check the engine and suspension parts.

How to Determine Used SUV Prices

Used SUV prices can be impacted by a variety of factors. When you are shopping for used SUVs through a service like CarsDirect, you may find that virtually identical vehicles sell for much different prices. Be sure to keep the following considerations in mind when contacting dealerships and negotiating with them.

Examine Physical and Mechanical Condition
The single most important factor in determining the price of a used SUV is its physical and mechanical condition. Examples of SUVs that are well-maintained and in excellent mechanical condition will always command higher asking and selling prices. Doing some sample searches via a service like Kelley Blue Book can show you the difference in value between an SUV in excellent condition and one in poor condition. Whether you are evaluating an SUV offered for sale by a dealership or private party, be sure to take the condition into account. If necessary, pay a small fee and have the vehicle inspected by a local mechanic. A mechanic's inspection can provide peace of mind before you finalize an SUV sale.

Determine Powertrain and Options
With gas prices in a constant state of flux, the powertrain and optional equipment on an SUV can also impact its price. For example, an SUV with an optional large V8 engine that gets poor fuel economy will have a lower value than a comparably-equipped SUV that is more fuel efficient. Additionally, an upper-level model with leather and navigation will be worth more than a more basic SUV with cloth bench seats and a single-disc CD player. When comparing prices between SUVs, be sure that they are comparably equipped. Cost to the Dealership Relative to Wholesale Value

There are some other important KBB values that go into determining the price of an SUV. Dealerships aim to purchase used vehicles for the inventory at or below an amount called the wholesale price. This wholesale value is the target price that a dealership would like to pay for a vehicle when purchasing it at a dealers-only auction. This figure is often near or slightly below the fair trade value as stated by KBB. Seeing as dealerships like to purchase SUVs for less than their wholesale values, this can explain why a dealership's trade-in offer can be thousands lower than the book value. If, for any reason, a dealership pays more than the wholesale value for an SUV, they may increase their price accordingly to help preserve a healthy profit margin. Therefore, the dealership's intended profit and ultimate cost for a vehicle also impact used SUV prices.

All dealerships will try to make a profit on vehicles they sell, but you should not consider the KBB resale value to be the final price for which you should push. You may find that a saturated market or unpopular options could help you drive a better deal than the target pricing provided by KBB. In any case, be sure to research a used SUV thoroughly to determine the price you are willing to pay for a particular SUV with your preferred options, and make this offer to multiple dealerships.

Common SUV Sales Scams
When you are in the market for a used SUV sale, there are some important scams to watch out for. Avoiding these scams can save you money and keep you from spending thousands of dollars more than you should for a vehicle. While many used car dealerships and private party sellers are eager to sell vehicles at low prices, it is important to watch out for deals that seem too good to be true.

The scams you may encounter can range from hiding engine problems to typical used car bait-and-switch tactics. If you feel you might be the victim of a scam, use a service like CarsDirect to find reliable dealers in your area. A service like CarsDirect can put you in touch with dealerships that are committed to offering a scam-free buying experience. The list below highlights some common scams that may be encountered when shopping for a used SUV:

  1. Engine Damage: If a vehicle has had engine damage repaired under warranty or by a used car dealership, this damage may not always be disclosed. Be sure to ask the seller for the repair history and, if applicable, all service records. Many SUVs are placed on the market because of engine problems. While engine repairs done with care can last for years, a poor job may cause you to spend thousands of dollars on additional engine repairs over your term of ownership.
  2. Electrical Problems: Modern vehicles have more electronics and computer systems than early supercomputers. In turn, there can be a variety of electrical problems that hamper a vehicle's ability to perform well. Some sign of electrical problems can be found on the dashboard. If you see warning lights on the dashboard or display screens that are not functioning correctly, there may be some underlying electrical problems. If in doubt, have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic before completing your transaction, as electrical problems can be difficult and costly to track down.
  3. Transmission Problems: Some used car dealerships will flush transmission fluid in order to alleviate possible transmission problems on a SUV. While a fluid exchange can temporarily repair transmission problems, it is only a short term fix to avoid expensive repairs. If a vehicle hesitates while shifting or is slow to downshift when accelerating, the SUV you are considering may have transmission problems. If a mechanic inspects a vehicle and suspects transmission problems, it is best to avoid the vehicle and continue your search. A transmission can cost thousands of dollars to rebuild or replace, and transmission repairs are not an exact science. One small transmission problem can plague a SUV's drivability for the rest of its useful life.
  4. Branded Titles: If a SUV is involved in a major accident that causes more damage than its fair market value, the vehicle is issued a salvage or junk title. While vehicles with these titles can be an excellent value, they are difficult to finance, insure and resell. A salvage title allows a dealership to offer a great price, but the damage and inability to resell the vehicle makes it impossible to recommend a salvage vehicle.

While there are other scams you may encounter when shopping for a SUV, these are among the most common scams. Be sure to use CarsDirect to find reputable dealers in your area.

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