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Americans embrace buying used cars

By Claes Bell ·
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Posted: 7 am ET

Americans love their new cars, but nothing promotes personal frugality quite like a terrifying recession. That's why it's no surprise that Americans are increasingly willing to consider a late-model used car for their next auto.

As part of Consumer Reports' annual Car Brand Perception Study, the magazine surveyed respondents about their feelings on used cars and found consumers more open to them than in previous years (from the Consumer Reports Cars Blog):

Two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents said that they are more likely to consider a late-model used car relative to several years ago. Only 30 percent of consumers reported being less likely to consider a used car.

Furthermore, a huge proportion overall were willing to consider used cars:

From the interviews, 71 percent reported being likely to consider a late-model used car as an alternative to a new car, including nearly half who said they are very likely (47 percent). Gender differences saw more men (75 percent) than women (67 percent) considering used.

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that Bankrate readers are huge fans of used cars, because they allow buyers to dodge the huge chunk of depreciation that happens in the first few years of new-car ownership. Buying used has its own trade-offs as well, including higher auto loan rates and the nontrivial risk you're buying a mistreated vehicle, but in most cases, it makes more financial sense than losing thousands of dollars to depreciation.

The gender split is interesting. The one explanation I can think for why women wouldn't be as willing to consider a used car is that women tend to be preyed upon more often by unscrupulous mechanics. That may make them more focused than men on avoiding having to do major maintenance, often an unpleasant reality of owning an older car. I'd be interested to hear what Bankrate readers think, though, as this explanation is far from satisfying, so how about it? Why do more women prefer new cars?

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January 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I bought my last used car from Enterprise 12 years ago and it's great! 162,000 miles: 34 mpg on the road and 26/27 in LA. I faithfully follow the maintenance schedule and only go to the dealer. And my sales rep there is direct and honest. This car (a 1998 Toyota Corolla) will last to 250 - 300,000 miles; of course, I may need a new transmission or engine inbetween; but so what. I encourage people to go to the car rental sites and pick their next used car.