You know it’s time to buy your next vehicle, but a new car is just not something you can afford right now. So, you've decided that a used car is the way to go. But what do you look for to get the most out of a used car purchase?

In their 2016 Auto Satisfaction Survey, Consumer Reports detailed how satisfied people have been with their vehicles and if they would buy the same one again. These findings can be helpful when you’re deciding on which used car might be right for you.

How to Pick the Right Vehicle

First, you have to decide why you need a vehicle. Do you need a something more reliable for your commute to work, or do you require more safety for your family? Do you need a vehicle that handles well in ice and snow, or is it sunny year round where you live? How about cargo space and towing capacity?

You should consider all these things when choosing your next vehicle. A good tip: make a list of your driving needs and wants. Typically, you'll have a primary use for your vehicle, and this should be your top focus when making a selection.

Research Your Options

When you know which features to focus on, you can research your vehicle options. Using sources like the Consumer Reports Auto Satisfaction Survey, you can see how other drivers feel about a particular make and model, which can help you compare vehicles.

Keep in mind that when you have bad credit and need to purchase a used vehicle, your vehicle choices will depend on what you qualify for at the dealership. However, knowing what you are looking for will help you build a realistic budget for car shopping and give you a goal that you can save towards.

Best Used Cars for Customer Satisfaction

Used cars can be a great option if you are struggling with credit issues. Some car owners say they would definitely purchase the same car again if given the option. Here’s how some brands rank for customer satisfaction, according to Consumer Reports:

  • Subaru – 76%
  • Toyota – 76%
  • Honda – 75%
  • Ford – 72%
  • Kia – 70%

Used cars can be both reliable and affordable. According to Consumer Reports, the following affordable used cars ranked high overall:

  • 2014 Honda Accord coupeHonda Fit – If you're going for something newer, 2016 models are available for under $20,000 while 2012 and 2013 models are typically priced between $10,000 and $15,000.
  • Toyota Corolla – One of America’s top selling new cars also makes a popular used car model. Model years 2007 to 2011 can be found for under $10,000, while 2012 through 2014s typically go for less than $15,000.
  • Honda Accord (2014 model pictured) – Another U.S. best seller, 2013 and 2014 models can be purchased for under $20,000. Model years 2008 through 2012 usually fetch $15,000 or less.
  • Honda CR-V – This vehicle remains popular with model years 2007 through 2010 starting around $10,000. Meanwhile, 2011 through 2013 models can be obtained for under $20,000.
  • Toyota Camry – This top seller continues to be one of America’s most popular cars. Pick up a 2013 or 2014 model for under $20,000, or a model year 2009 through 2012 for less than $15,000.

Used Cars vs. Certified Pre-Owned

If you want to go the extra mile to make sure your used car is in top condition, a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle may be the way to go. Unlike standard used cars, manufacturer-certified vehicles are typically inspected and repaired to automaker guidelines before they can receive CPO certification. They can provide extra peace of mind because these CPO vehicles usually come with some kind of manufacturer warranty (usually a service contract).

Be careful, however, because dealer-certified vehicles are different than those certified by the manufacturer, and are not always held to the same standard. Dealer-certified vehicles may or may not be inspected and/or carry a service contract.

CPO cars usually come with a higher price tag than the average used vehicle. This is because of the extra costs of the inspection and service contract. According to Consumer Reports, it’s often a better deal to get a non-CPO used car and have it inspected by your mechanic before you buy. Any money you save on the purchase price can then be set aside as a car repair fund and, if you don't use part or all of it, a down payment on your next vehicle.

The Bottom Line

Knowing what to look for in a used car can save you time and money when you’re shopping for your next vehicle. If you're looking to purchase soon, don’t let tarnished credit hold you back. Auto Credit Express works with a nationwide network of special finance dealers who can help you with your used vehicle needs. They have the lenders available to assist people in many types of bad credit situations. Get started by filling out our free online auto request form today!