How to choose the best used car

Since new cars can depreciate by up to 40 percent after three years, used cars can be a big money-saver if done right.

WTOP got tips on how to search for a used car and which ones to focus on from Consumer Reports deputy auto editor John Linkov:

  • During the test drive, look for bucking, excessive bouncing over bumps, wind noise and whether the car’s engine offers enough performance. If the engine revs up but the car hesitates, that could be a sign of a slipping transmission.
  • “If you’ve really gotten it down to one [car] that you’re willing to pay for, ask the owner or ask the dealer if you can take it to a mechanic,” Linkov said. For about $100, a mechanic will tell you “whether it’s a lemon or a peach,” he said.
  • Check the history of the car through a vehicle history report. You can also try taking the vehicle identification number to a dealership and asking for the service history.
  • Consumer Reports recommends used models based on road test and reliability scores, and safety features.

Find more from Consumer Reports’ used car buying guide.

Here are some of the best used car options for SUVs, compact cars and larger sedans:

The CX-5 has seen some upgrades this year including stylish 19-inch wheels that go along with the new front end styling from last year. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
Suggested SUVs include the Mazda CX-5. Pictured here is the 2018 Mazda CX-5. (WTOP/Mike Parris) (WTOP/Mike Parris)
Toyota RAV4 (WTOP/Mike Parris)
Suggested SUVs include the Toyota Rav4. Pictured here is the 2014 Toyota Rav4. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The 2016 Tucson is larger than the previous model but is still a smaller crossover. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
Suggested SUVs include the Hyundai Tucson. Pictured here is the 2016 Hyundai Tucson. (WTOP/Mike Parris) (WTOP/Mike Parris)
This Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, photo shows the 2017 Honda CR-V, in Detroit. America's family car is no longer the Toyota Camry or some other midsize car. It's the Honda CR-V, a compact SUV, that's getting its first overhaul since 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Suggested SUVs include the Honda CR-V. Pictured here is the 2017 Honda CR-V, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (AP/Paul Sancya)
 If you’re looking for a luxury crossover, the new RX should be on your list to see and drive. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
Suggested SUVs include the Lexus RX. Pictured here is the 2015 Lexus RX. (WTOP/Mike Parris) (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The Mazda3 S Grand Touring with its peppy 4-cylinder engine and good gas mileage makes a fun, sporty 5-door compact. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The Mazda3 is a solid compact car option. Pictured here is the 2015 Mazda3 S Grand Touring. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
In this Sunday, June 24, 2018, photograph, unsold 2018 Corolla sedans sit at a Toyota dealership in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
The Toyota Corolla is a solid compact car option. The Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe are also good, older options. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (AP/David Zalubowski)
WILLEY
The Pontiac Vibe is a good, older option for a used compact car. Pictured here is a Pontiac Vibe. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) (AP)
A 2009 Toyota Matrix is shown at the service department at McInerney Toyota in Clinton Township, Mich., Feb. 4, 2010.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
The Toyota Matrix is a good, older option for a used compact car. Pictured here is a 2009 Toyota Matrix in Clinton Township, Mich., Feb. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Paul Sancya)
The 2017 Toyota Camry XSE V6 is a preview of what’s to come in the future for the Camry models: more interesting styling, better handling and the usual comfort and room this sedan is known for. (WTOP/Mike Parris) 
Top larger sedan options include the Toyota Camry. Pictured here is the 2017 Toyota Camry. (WTOP/Mike Parris) (WTOP/Mike Parris)
Ford Fusion hybrid
Ford Fusion is a solid larger sedan to buy used. The Ford Fusion hybrid is displayed at the North American International Auto Show, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (AP)
This photo provided by Honda shows the 2017 Honda Accord. Edmunds reports that the midsize sedan currently has discounts in the $5,700 range, depending on package and region. (Courtesy of Honda Motor Co., Inc. via AP)
The Honda Accord is also a reliable large sedan option. This photo provided by Honda shows the 2017 Honda Accord. (Courtesy of Honda Motor Co., Inc. via AP) (AP/Honda)
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The CX-5 has seen some upgrades this year including stylish 19-inch wheels that go along with the new front end styling from last year. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
Toyota RAV4 (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The 2016 Tucson is larger than the previous model but is still a smaller crossover. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
This Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, photo shows the 2017 Honda CR-V, in Detroit. America's family car is no longer the Toyota Camry or some other midsize car. It's the Honda CR-V, a compact SUV, that's getting its first overhaul since 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
 If you’re looking for a luxury crossover, the new RX should be on your list to see and drive. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The Mazda3 S Grand Touring with its peppy 4-cylinder engine and good gas mileage makes a fun, sporty 5-door compact. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
In this Sunday, June 24, 2018, photograph, unsold 2018 Corolla sedans sit at a Toyota dealership in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
WILLEY
A 2009 Toyota Matrix is shown at the service department at McInerney Toyota in Clinton Township, Mich., Feb. 4, 2010.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
The 2017 Toyota Camry XSE V6 is a preview of what’s to come in the future for the Camry models: more interesting styling, better handling and the usual comfort and room this sedan is known for. (WTOP/Mike Parris) 
Ford Fusion hybrid
This photo provided by Honda shows the 2017 Honda Accord. Edmunds reports that the midsize sedan currently has discounts in the $5,700 range, depending on package and region. (Courtesy of Honda Motor Co., Inc. via AP)

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