If there's one thing that I've noticed over the years, it's how many people talk about how hard it can be to find an inexpensive yet reliable car. Most cars out there, if they're reliable, will cost over $25,000 to get brand-new. If they're used, many reliable cars will end up being as much as $10,000 — even after years of being used.
I've heard people complain about buying a cheap car that breaks down within months of getting it. I've also heard of people who just blindly insist that a good car can't be bought under a certain price. Others, still, have told me that they can't trust a used car, or a certain brand of car.
So, why are inexpensive reliable cars so hard to find these days? Well, it's actually not, if you know what to look for. If you're having trouble finding a reliable car at an affordable cost, it could be because of the following reasons...
You're not actually inspecting the cars that you buy.
Most inexpensive reliable cars are hidden among lower quality cars in dealership lots or are being sold by private sellers after years of use. In other words, it's hard to distinguish the lemons from the gold bars at first glance.
Buying a car without inspecting it is like reaching into a paper bag filled with jelly beans hoping you pick out a specific flavor — in theory, this might work for you, but in practice, it's unlikely to work in your favor.
If you want to get a cheap, reliable car, you still have to treat it like a major financial purchase. Get a mechanic to look at the car for you, note any major damages, and give you an idea of whether it'll be reliable or not.
Talk is cheap, but it can make you pay a lot more than what a car is worth if you're not careful. So always, always look before you leap.
Don't trust dealerships when it comes to car suggestions.
Inexpensive reliable cars are not usually the ones that dealerships will try to get you to buy. Why? Because they want to get rid of the lemons that more car-smart people won't touch with a 10-foot pole. If they think that you are gullible, they'll stick you with an overpriced junk car in a heartbeat.
The dealership is not your friend. The dealer is not your friend. They will act like friends, but that doesn't mean that you should trust them with your car choice. If you don't believe me, then, by all means, look online to see how many scummy dealership horror stories you can find.
It's much, much better to research the most reliable car models and use that research to base your decision than it is to hope that the guy making a buck off of you will act in your best interest.
Understand that location matters, too.
As bad as it sounds, many areas that are economically downtrodden tend to have way better car prices than more upscale areas. The reason why is simple — upscale areas tend to have people who get more detached from the standard prices of everything. They have more money to spend, so they won't care if prices are slightly higher in many cases.
So, if you want to find good but cheap cars, you might need to go to a city that isn't well-off. Moreover, dealerships in these areas also are more likely to have more inexpensive reliable cars than their upscale counterparts because the people who go there tend to want reliability over flash, too.
If you don't know any dealerships in the area, going online in your car search can be a wise choice.
If you're looking for added reassurance of the car's good standing, get a certified pre-owned car.
Certified pre-owned cars are cars that have to undergo inspections and repairs before they are sold by dealerships. They're refurbished so that they have fewer problems and are a little bit more reliable than just a standard car.
Most dealerships will also repair certified pre-owned vehicles at a discount, simply because they're contractually obligated to stand by them for a longer amount of time. This is also true with warrantied cars, too.
Either way, a little accountability is a good thing when you're looking for inexpensive reliable cars... and yes, there are inexpensive certified pre-owned cars out there.
Understand that different brands have different reliability levels.
The car manufacturer that makes your potential car will make a big difference in the reliability level of your car. Not all car companies are made equal, otherwise, a Porsche would cost the same as a Kia.
Before you buy a car, make sure you learn about which car brands are the most reliable — and what are the best years of each car you're considering buying. This will give you a baseline of what to expect, and also will help you avoid buying a natural lemon.
That being said, swearing by one brand when shopping for a reliable car is not a wise idea, either. Every car brand out there has had good models in terms of reliability and affordability.
So, maybe it's best if you just know which car you want to buy before you even hit the dealership lots.
Your mileage may vary — literally.
Lastly, it's important to remember that your mileage may vary. I mean this literally and figuratively.
100,000 miles on a Toyota will not be the same level of reliability as 100,000 on a Yugo. In 100,000 miles, the Toyota will still be fine. However, chances are that the Yugo will already have destroyed itself by then.
I've seen people who had cars that looked like they were ready to dissolve into rust last for 15 years. I've also seen cars that looked perfect save for one scratch light themselves on fire after a year of ownership.
So, to a point, yes, it is about luck. However, with enough research, you will be able to increase your odds of finding great but inexpensive reliable cars to buy.