The market for new cars in the U.S. is sputtering, with major automakers from Ford to Nissan reporting falling sales last month. The dip comes after an estimated 39 million used cars were sold in the U.S. last year.
One auto analyst tells NPR that President Trump’s tariff strategy will likely mean higher costs for prospective car buyers over time. But the price tag for a new car has already been rising, says Jonathan Linkov, deputy auto editor for Consumer Reports.
“A couple of years ago, it was $27,500, then $29,500, now almost $30,000 is the average new car [price],” he says. “It’s a tough thing for people, and that’s the average car — you’re talking a Honda Accord, a Toyota Camry. We’re not talking about the people who are buying BMW 3 Series, the Audi A5s, et cetera.”
Trouble is, when people decide to look past that shiny new car on the dealership lot in favor of a used one, most find themselves in over their heads.
“A lot of times, people go in to buy a used car out of a desperation or a need,” Linkov tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson. “They go in and they buy almost what they find — they go to kick the tires maybe, and they drive out with a vehicle.”
Starting a search of your own? Here’s some used car buying advice:
“It depends on the reliability of the vehicle,” Linkov says. “You can get plenty of vehicles that go out 200,000 miles. We see, from Ford Ranger pickup trucks — which, unfortunately, a lot of them have a Takata airbag issue going on right now — but they can be reliable. You can have a Toyota Camry that goes 200,000 miles. At the same time, you can have a car that has a lot of electronics, and it’s 75,000 to 100,000 miles, you don’t want to be getting into repairs with that.
“Brand is a start, but look at the specific model. You have to start digging down. You have to use information, like at Consumer Reports, but on other sites as well, to look at reliability information.”
“Certified is a term to say that it’s been very well inspected. The dealership has taken a risk on the car, and they’re going to say, ‘Well you know, it’s pretty clean. There don’t seem to be any problems with it. We’re happy to sell it, because we’re not going to take it back,’ likely, in a lot of warranty repairs. It’s just an added bonus,” Linkov says. “It’s like an extended warranty. So figure the regular warranty last three years, 36,000 [miles], four years, 50,000 miles. This will extend the warranty.
“For the most part, you’re going to say, these are probably pretty good vehicles, but it’s good to get a certification from the manufacturer, not a third party. So if the Toyota dealership is selling a certified Camry, make sure it’s certified right through Toyota and the dealership, not through a third party.”
“You absolutely should haggle as much as you can,” Linkov says. “Do your research. Look at, again, Consumer Reports has prices, ranges, for cars. You can look on Auto Trader, you can look on all the different sites out there and see kind of what car is in that general mileage, price range, condition are going for. Make your offer. If you walk out and they say, ‘No no no, wait,’ you know there’s room. The best thing about used cars is that there are so many of them out there.”
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.