A used car is originally, well, new. More specifically, it has been out of production for at least three years and has not been sold in the US market in that time. It’s still brand-new in many ways because it has hardly ever left the factory floor. This means that no matter what kind of car you buy—from a sports utility vehicle to a small hatchback—if you were to buy it off the lot today, no other people would have driven it before you did.
However, it’s not quite that simple to define exactly what a used car is because there are different kinds of used cars to consider. Most people just call them “used” cars, but the reality is more complex. When you take a look at the different types of used cars available, you can see how buying one involves more variables than you might have originally thought.
First, let’s identify the main kinds of used cars available. There are basically three kinds of used cars on the market:
New car, used car:
These are the two most common kinds of used cars. New cars, of course, are brand-new, but they’re not necessarily just new anymore. A new car will typically be sold off the lot with less than three years on the odometer. Used cars can range in age from relatively new to nearly two decades old or older (though there are often limited exceptions).
used vehicle; pre-owned vehicle; salvage vehicle; salvaged vehicle; reconditioned vehicle; reconditioning vehicle; remanufactured car; repossessed car. These terms all refer to used cars that probably started out as new and were sold off the lot after less than three years. Most of the time, these cars have been in use for just a few months or years, and some might even be slightly damaged, but still in decent shape.
pre-owner car; pre-owned or pre-purchased car; consumer vehicle/retail vehicle resale vehicle used vehicle; used vehicle; secondhand auto; older used vehicle. These words all refer to slightly older used cars, those that have been in use for at least five years and maybe as long as 25 or 30 years old. These cars might have been used as daily drivers for several years and could be in reasonably good shape, but they could also be in such poor condition that you’d probably want to drive them to the junk yard before you could drive them home.
It would take a very long time to go over all the different types of used cars available, but most people buy one of two kinds: new cars or used cars. When you look at the big picture, though, the choices are really quite diverse. The main focus right now should be on what kinds of used cars are available because that will help you decide which kind of car to buy. You should also consider what choice is best for your situation.