How far would you drive to find a less expensive used car?
Obviously, the answer depends on how much money you might save by going elsewhere.
This is a question that Autolist.com tries to help you answer with its Affordability Rankings data tool. It’s not the easiest tool we’ve ever used, but the results can be interesting.
For example, take a typical consumer in, say, Palo Pinto County, TX, just west of Fort Worth, who is in the market for a used car. Already having gone through the process of identifying the make and model she wants to purchase, it’s time to figure out where to find the best deal.
Chances are she first will look for a local dealership because that would be convenient. But if she found the right used car, our shopper could spend around $1,823 more than the state average on a vehicle.
So that might not be the best choice, especially since there are much better options available.
In fact, there are much better options if our shopper is willing to expand her horizon just a bit to the east toward Fort Worth – or even Dallas – according to Autolist.com research. In Parker County, which is located between Palo Pinto and Fort Worth, the average cost of a used car is $194 less than the state average or more than $2,000 less than the car would in Palo Pinto.
She could save another $10 by shopping in Fort Worth, although that hardly seems worth the gas.
But traveling to Dallas – which is about 30 miles east of Fort Worth – means she could purchase a used car for $400 less than in Parker or Fort Worth, $600 less than the state average, and a whopping $2,600 less than staying home in Palo Pinto, based on Autolist.com data.
But does the Autolist.com tool hold up for other locales?
- It does in Nebraska, where the average used car costs $1,127 less in Lincoln than it does in adjacent Saunders County, which is located to the north of the state capital, and $1,528 less in Seward County, Lincoln’s western suburbs, than it does in Saunders.
- And it works in Florida, where the average car costs $3,067 less in Collier County (Naples) than adjacent Hendry County and about $3,000 less in the Fort Lauderdale area than in Hendry.
- The Autolist.com data also holds up in California, where the average used car costs almost $3,000 less in San Francisco than 90 miles to the east in San Joaquin County and $1,159 less in adjacent Alameda County (Oakland) than in San Joaquin.
- It also works in New Jersey, where the average used car costs almost $800 less in Bergen County (Hackensack), just across the Hudson River from New York City, than in adjacent Hudson County (Hoboken), and about $2,000 less than in Warren County, 80 miles to the west.
While the price of a specific make and model is likely to be different than the state or local averages, based on model year, vehicle mileage, overall condition, market demand and other factors, tools such as Autolist.com at least can tell you whether to buy it close to home or look somewhere else. For many shoppers, the chance to save as much as several thousand dollars might be worth the trip.
Autolist.com, which aggregates and analyzes vehicle listings from major car sales sites on the Internet – including Edmunds.com, Autobytel, eBay and “hundreds of other major automotive retailers” – recently had more than five million vehicles listed for sale nationally.