If You Really Need an SUV, Think Used

Even with lower gas prices, the idea of buying gas-thirsty SUVs (sport utility vehicles) puts off many people. But if you are among those who really need a large four-wheel drive vehicle—because you tow a boat or trailer, haul large amounts of gear to go camping, or live in snow country—consider buying a used SUV.

Look for the biggest discount

When SUV resale values plummeted as gas prices spiked, vehicles from Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler were hardest hit—and their resale values remain lower than competitors'. For instance, a 2007 Ford Explorer XLT four-wheel drive with 25,000 miles and typical options would sell at a dealership for about $17,225, while a new 2009 Explorer of the same model and equipment would sell for around $26,900

Think differently if you plan to resell the SUV

If you need that SUV now, but plan to resell in a few years, look for high resale value. For instance, if you buy a 2007 Honda Pilot now and sell it in two years, you will recover 49% of your initial investment. A Ford Explorer in the same scenario will get you 36%.

Consider a certified used vehicle

With a certified vehicle, the dealer has done an inspection and you get an extension of the new-car warranty. Make sure, however, that the certified program comes with a warranty from the parent company. Some used-car dealers call vehicles certified that have much less quality assurance behind them. And, get the VIN (vehicle identification number) and check online at CarFax or a similar service to make sure the car has never been in a collision, flood, or other unusual circumstance.

Consider an extended warranty

If you don't buy a certified used car, you can get some similar protection with an extended warranty for about $1,000. While not usually worth the price when buying a new car, such warranties make more sense with used cars—where major, very expensive repairs become more likely.

Think smaller if you can

If your towing job or the load you haul isn't really all that big, consider a small utility such as the Ford Escape, Honda CRV, or Toyota RAV-4. These smaller vehicles often can get the job done—and they cost less.

For more information check out our Auto Buying Help Center or view one of our Interactive Coaches . You can also stop by any of our branch locations, email us or call us at (617) 495-4460.

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