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Consumer Reports: Buying Used Can Save Thousands

September 03, 2008

WASHINGTON — A new study conducted by Consumer Reports has the potential to create waves among would-be new-car buyers. The report compares the costs of ownership over five years for a new car vs. the same model's three-year-old, low-mileage used counterpart. In addition to the obvious differences in sticker price and depreciation (an average of 25 percent over five years for the used car against 45 percent for the 2008 model), the study included factors such as insurance and sales tax.

"A reliable, late-model used car can be one of the best values out there when buying a car," said Rik Paul, Consumer Reports' automotive editor. "Savvy shoppers can also get a more upscale model with more features for the same owner cost as a less-expensive new car."

One example cited was the six-cylinder version of the Toyota Camry. A driver planning to drive 12,000 miles per year could potentially save $13,000 over five years by purchasing a low-mileage 2005 model rather than the 2008. If fuel costs held steady at $4 per gallon over that span, the driver could use the difference to pay for five years' worth of gas — with $2,500 to spare.

The study noted that only modest savings could be achieved in choosing the used version of vehicles such as the Toyota Prius or MINI Cooper, which tend to depreciate at well below the average rate.

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