Cars on the outside in the parking lot

Which is the Better Deal: Used Car or Salvage Car?

Before making a purchase decision to buy a vehicle, weighing your available options is important. The bottom line is that everyone has different needs and that every vehicle available for sale should be evaluated on a case by case basis. That being said, there are some criteria to consider when trying to choose between searching for a used vehicle or one from a salvage auction.

Hidden Costs at the Used Car Lot

The sad truth is that many vehicles sold at “corner” used car lots are actually salvage vehicles themselves. Many used car lot owners scour auto auctions to find their inventory, and only apply some cosmetic fixes to make the cars look shiny and attractive on the lot. They usually mark up the prices, and can be very deceptive about the true value of the car.

Unfortunately, vehicle owners may quickly discover that they got more of a hassle than they bargained for. Horror stories abound of vehicles bought from local used car lots with issues that only came about after a month’s worth of driving. Owners of this type of vehicle often sink into constant repairs and maintenance than they anticipated. Depending on your state lemon laws, you may have as little as three to ten days to return the vehicle without consequence. Some states don’t even offer this sort of buyer protection.

A Dealership Can Cost Much More

If you opt to skip the corner lot in favor of a car dealership with a pre-owned sales department, you can usually find vehicles in more favorable condition- just be ready to pay for the privilege. Dealerships typically get these vehicles as trade-ins. To maintain a profit, the amount they offer the seller of the car will be less than the fair market value, and the asking price once the car is on the lot will be a percentage over the fair market value.

While this practice makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, it ends up costing you a hefty premium for the pleasure of shopping at a dealership. Late model vehicles will also tend to be overpriced to take advantage of the appearance of luxury. What’s more, the warranties and inspections the lots offer to protect the buyer can also come at an inflated price. All of these factors mean that buying a vehicle from a dealership can be a reliable, but costly option.

Salvage Salvation

Unlike the other two options, salvage vehicles are sold either at or far below their fair market value. Salvage auctions make their money from sheer volume, not from inflating. Auctions also allow you the opportunity to use your savvy bidding skills to get that vehicle for next to nothing.

Search autos from the auction

Salvage vehicles also make no attempt to disguise or whitewash defects with the vehicle. What you see is what you get. Yes, many of the cars, RVs and motorcycles are in need of repair, but with access to a good mechanic or some repair knowledge, you can get the vehicle in running condition with less money than it takes to keep a corner lot lemon running.

What’s more, many salvage vehicles have not sustained serious damage to the integrity of the driving systems. Salvage buyers should train themselves to spot potentially problematic issues from the auction photos. With a good eye and some elbow grease, you can find a vehicle for thousands below its typical listing price.

In the end, the choice depends on what you are looking for. If you’re willing to pay to say you bought your car from a dealership and that it came with a warranty, that’s fine. If you’d rather get a vehicle that was involved in wreck that only damaged the side doors and windows, have it repaired, and be on the road for thousands less than the typical auto market value, you may opt to be a savvy, salvage money saver.

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