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Used cars are a screaming deal — but here’s the real sweet spot in the market

Used cars are a screaming deal — but here’s the real sweet spot in the market
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Theo Thimou |
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This year is going to be the best year to buy a used car in a generation, according to money expert Clark Howard!

Read more: These are the 21 deadliest cars in America

Here’s what makes this the ideal time to buy used

There are a couple factors contributing to the perfect storm that’s benefiting used car buyers right now.

First, automakers overextended themselves in 2014 with subsidized leases. All those cars are coming off-lease now and are back on the dealer lots. The supply is extreme and they’re overstocked to the max.

Second, buyer tastes have changed over the last three years. Back in 2014, the marketplace was much more heavily tilted toward passenger cars than it is today. Nowadays, most people want to drive some kind of light truck — either an SUV, a truck, a van or a crossover.

So passenger cars are sitting unloved on dealer lots now.

That means the best deals right now are on three-year-old passenger cars. In particular, three-year-old luxury cars are a steal of deal. Luxury cars have always been more heavily tilted to the sedan category than they have to the light truck category.

But the ultimate deal of all? A three-year-old hybrid or a three-year-old Nissan Leaf. Leafs, which Clark has owned and driven before, are selling for practically nothing right now!

That’s because Nissan very heavily leased the Leaf and they’ve fallen out of favor because of low gas prices. According to Clark, people are now buying Leafs that have 25,000 to 30,000 miles on them for as little as $6,000. It costs next to nothing to run a Leaf, so consider if this could work for your commute cycle.

A couple pointers to keep in mind when buying a used car

Arrange your used auto financing first. Look at credit unions, online banks or even traditional banks. Only take dealer financing if it beats any other offer you have.

Make sure the used vehicle is worth what you’re paying. Check, or for the true market value so you come up with a feel for the price.

Check the vehicle number. Run the VIN though this free service to find out if it’s a flood vehicle or if it’s been in a horrible accident.

Have the used vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic. Never rely on any representations that the salesperson makes about the car, be it a commissioned employee at a dealership or an independent seller in your neighborhood.

Check out your no-haggle buying options. It can be tough to find a diamond in the rough and weed out the lousy deals. Try, which has a seven-day no questions asked return policy. It’s kind of like the Carmax of the online used car buying world.

Read more: The top 25 best cars for senior drivers

Clark’s advice when a buying used car