A new car isn’t always in the cards, or more likely, not in the budget. That leaves either public transportation or ride-sharing or buying a cheap used car. Unless you really enjoy talking to strangers on the bus or waiting for who-knows-how-long for your ride to show up, then getting a used car sounds like a pretty good plan.

But the used car market today is more robust than ever. Whether you're looking for a car, SUV, truck, or van, you can find a great deal in a cheap, used car. And you can do it all in days, not weeks. Read to learn where the best deals can be found and discover the easiest way to shop for your next vehicle.

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How to buy used cars cheap

The sticker price on a used car can be enticing. But it’s what you DON’T see on the online listing or window sticker that changes the game. If the car needs inspection and safety repairs, that can be expensive. Then there are warranties to consider, not to mention taxes. But the factor that takes most people by surprise is the interest rate. 

On a used vehicle, interest rates are higher than the advertised rates for new cars. Where it’s common to see new car interest rates between 0% and 4.99% depending on the car and financing term, used vehicles don’t qualify for those subvented interest rates. Two options remain: finance at a higher rate or pay cash. 

Should I pay cash for a car?

The idea of owning a vehicle outright with no payments is certainly intriguing. But it’s seldom a good idea to pay cash for a used car. 

  • Most car buyers don’t have that kind of money on hand. 
  • If you do have the cash to buy a car, it can put you in a tight financial position if you have a surprise expense.
  • Your money can earn you more in a modest investment than you’ll pay in interest usually. 

For most used car buyers, the better option is to make payments on a pre-owned car loan.

Can you get a loan for a private sale?

When you look at the used car listings, many are for privately owned vehicles. The problem is that you don’t have the money on hand to buy the car right away. You can:

  • Make an agreement with the seller and get a bill of sale. 
  • Visit your bank or another lender to apply for a used car loan. 
  • Wait until the loan is approved and funded, which can be a day to a week. 
  • Or be denied the loan and start all over. 

Loans for privately purchased cars are possible, but they’re tough to navigate and time-consuming. And often, they’re at an interest rate that seems higher than it should be. 

Can I get a used car loan from a dealership?

You may be surprised to learn not only that car dealerships sell used cars but have some of the best loan options available to you. In fact, most car dealers outsell new cars with used 2 to 1. Because it’s a high-volume part of their business, dealerships have access to some of the best rates and terms with lenders specifically for auto loans. Better yet, financing is often done on the spot or within a day.

Where do you find the best cheap used cars?

In Canada, there are hundreds of thousands of used cars for sale at any one time. Many of those are in the range you’d consider a cheap used car, from $7,000 to $15,000. The various locations you’ll find cars listed run the gamut.

Autotrader

Of the sites listing used cars for sale, Autotrader is one of the most popular. Typically containing more than half a million listings nationwide, Autotrader has many options to choose from. While diverse listings are a positive aspect, this site is notorious for sellers who don’t honour the price they advertise the vehicle for. It’s also inundated with premium listings that may be masking the gem you’re looking to buy, and Autotrader doesn’t offer financing.

Facebook Marketplace

One of the most recent additions is Facebook Marketplace where you can browse through free vehicle listings. There are thousands of vehicles listed, but it’s definitely not user-friendly to sort through those listings. As well, there’s no guarantee that the details on the ad are true and accurate, and there’s always a chance the listing is a scam. Financing the vehicle is completely up to you.

Kijiji

Canada’s favourite classifieds website is Kijiji where you can buy and sell virtually anything. That includes used cars by the thousands. It’s relatively easy to search the listings for the model or details you want, but there are hiccups for Kijiji also. Like Marketplace, many ads are fake with the intention to scam you. And like Autotrader, there’s a trend where the listed price isn’t the actual price you’d have to pay. Kijiji also doesn’t offer any financing services.

Used car dealerships

Across the other platforms, you’ll find vehicles listed by dealerships. Unlike the other sites, dealerships have a responsibility to provide accurate details and are accountable for them. The vehicles are also professionally inspected and serviced. Unfortunately, if you have bad credit, some dealerships may not be equipped to take care of you well. 

Canada Drives

Canada Drives offers a complete solution to match you with a cheap used car. The Canada Drives dealer network has vehicles of all kinds and for all budgets. Since they’re all from certified dealerships, they’re professionally inspected and ready to drive. What’s even more important is that Canada Drives can get you pre-approved for a used car loan – good credit, bad credit, or no credit! Don't waste time visiting dealerships or lenders that only work with good credit customers. Canada Drives will connect you with local lenders and dealers that know how to help!

What to look for when buying a cheap used car

No matter how much or how little you’re looking to spend, you need your car to be reliable. Certain things should be on your checklist for a cheap used car including:

  •  A vehicle history report such as CARFAX. A VHR identifies any red flags like title issues, major accidents, or gaps in history that you may want to walk away from. 
  • Warranty included or available. Unless you’re ready to pay for costly repairs, you’ll want a warranty on your used car. Find out how much factory warranty is remaining and price out extended warranty options. 
  • A vehicle inspection. Make sure the car has been checked over and safety certified by a licensed technician. But you should personally look for warning signs like rust spots, dents and dings, mismatched paint, leaks under the car, and unusual wear on tires. 
  • Taking a test drive. It’s a bad idea to buy a cheap used car without trying it out first. Listen for clunks and rattles, check for warning lights on the dash, and feel for shaking when you’re on the highway. 

Is it cheaper to lease a used car?

Leasing may also be an option for a used car, depending on where you find the vehicle you want. Since new car advertisements often promote leases at a lower monthly price than financing but what are the perks for leasing a used car

  • Lower monthly payment. Like a new car lease, it’s usually less expensive to lease a used car. 
  • Flexible options at lease end. When your term is done, you can either give it back or buy it out. 
  • More bang for your buck. You may be able to afford a used luxury or premium car by leasing rather than financing. 

But there are negatives to leasing a used car too: 

  • You don’t build equity
  • You may need to pay wear and tear penalties
  • Most of all, there are very few dealers who offer used car leases

What is a cheap reliable used car?

Wondering what kinds of reliable pre-owned cars you can get these days? Here are a few examples. 

2015 Nissan Sentra SV - $11,000 to 13,000

Compact, fuel-efficient, and well equipped, the Nissan Sentra SV is a fantastic car for at a great price. In this age and price range, the vehicle will probably be beyond the factory warranty coverage. Nissan vehicles are known to be reliable and rather inexpensive to repair overall, so it’s still a great buy.

2013 Chevrolet Cruze LT - $9,500 to 12,000

Options like leather interior, heated seats, and remote start are available in the Cruze LT trim. With its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the Cruze is an affordable compact car with tons of attitude behind the wheel. 

2018 Kia Rio LX - $13,000 to $15,000

If awesome fuel efficiency is a top priority, the Kia Rio LX will serve you well. The LX trim has auto transmission available along with Bluetooth, power windows, AC, and keyless entry, and there’s a good chance you’ll find one with low mileage that still has a bumper-to-bumper warranty in effect. 

Read More: What Are the Most Reliable Cars in Canada? (That Are Still Affordable)

Get the best rates on cheap, used cars

No matter what you’re looking for in a cheap used car, Canada Drives can help. Even if you have bad credit, you can get pre-approved online in minutes and matched with a dealership near you. We'll offer you dozens of vehicle selections that you can test drive with zero obligation! Get preapproved online today!

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