Top 10 Used Car Deals

Best deals on previously owned vehicles
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Article updated October 2011

Used car values, when defined as the difference between the new car price and the used car price, can drop so low that you might be able to afford your choice of a lot of interesting rides. They can range from the luxurious to the practical, everything from a Jaguar S-Type to a Dodge Caravan.

You needn’t be a member of Mensa to know that the best deals in used cars will be vehicles that get poor fuel mileage. Also, pawnshop display areas are full of vehicles that can best be described as toys: Harleys, jacked-up SUVs, modified Camaros, sports cars with aftermarket turbochargers, and more.

But don’t despair. By some estimates, 40 percent or more of the increase in gasoline price is caused by the devaluation of the dollar, which is connected to the home mortgage debacle. It’s possible—likely even—that gas prices will drop significantly in the near future. If that’s true, the value of these cars will rocket back up to their previous prices. Americans will forget $4.00 per gallon gas within days if not hours.

Others say forces are at work to keep crude oil prices unnaturally high. Even if prices stay high, don’t be in a hurry to trade in your gas-guzzler: You can buy a whole lot of gas for the price of new economy car.

Here are 10 used cars that are great values:

Ford F-150

When new, the most expensive 2007 Ford F-150s cost about $35,000. Today, a dealer will give you less than $15,000 on a trade-in. You might get another few grand if you sell it directly to another person. Meanwhile, a V-6-equipped bottom-of-the barrel 2000 V-6 short bed goes for less than $4,000. You might as well drive it until it drops.

Dodge Ram 1500 Long Bed

Dodges are notorious for losing more value than their competition. Don’t even bother trying to trade in a 2006 Dodge Ram. The dealer will give you about $2,500 if he takes the trade at all. It’s reported that some Honda dealers won’t accept full-sized pickups and SUVs. You might get about $5,000 if you can find a private party buyer. If you’re looking for a good deal, this is one of the best you can buy.

Dodge Grand Caravan

In 2007, Grand Caravan minivans went for about $24,000. Compared to the Ram, the price hasn’t plummeted, but don’t expect to get more than $7,000 at trade-in time. Another good deal for used-car shoppers.

Lincoln Navigator

Back in 2007, a four-wheel-drive Lincoln Navigator went for more than $52,000. They’re worth about half that through a private party. Even if gas is $4 a gallon, you can buy 6,250 gallons for that kind of deal. That’s more than 100,000 miles of fuel.

Jaguar S-Type

The supercharged S-Type’s price has dropped further than just about any vehicle on the road. It started with a list price of about $64,000 in 2007, but is now down to less than $25,000. The fact that it gets 17 mpg in city driving probably has little to do with it.

Ford Crown Victoria

Looking for a super bargain? This may be it. In 2007, the Ford Crown Victoria LX sold for more than $28,000. Today, it’s worth less than $7,000.

BMW 760Li

From a starting price of more than $120,000, the V-12-powered 2007 BMW 760Li is now worth less than $80,000. Its EPA rating of 14 mpg city and 22 highway can’t be helping. However, it’ll still need to be serviced by BMW mechanics, so don’t spend all that you’d save buying one.

Cadillac STS

In 2007, the V8-powered Cadillac STS went for more than $50,000. Somewhere between now and then, $30,000 disappeared from its value.

Buick Rainier

Buick’s earlier attempt at a crossover sports utility vehicle makes Enron stock look valuable. In 2007, the Rainier went for a bit more than $32,000. Now it’s worth about $9,000.

Harley-Davidson

Motorcycles get great fuel mileage, but people don’t buy Harleys to economize. Instead they’re big-boy toys that wind up wasting gas as owners cruise aimlessly around creating noise pollution that rivals a Marine Corp shooting range. Stop by a pawnshop and pick up a cheap bike. Use it as a commuter, not a cruiser. And put a muffler on it.

This list of the top used car values may seem a bit unorthodox, but while you're waiting for the price of gas to drop and the resale value to go back up on that Jag, you can ride in style. Keep in market, the used car market has never been more strange, so these prices could change up or down at any minute. Make your best deal on a well-deserved, previously-owned vehicle and you'll be smiling all the way to easy street.

About the Author

Mac Demere is a writer, vehicle tester and race driver who competed in the NASCAR Southwest Tour and Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

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