Are “Used” Cars A Good Thing?

Obviously there are advantages to buying a used car, mostly for price. And there are disadvantages, mostly related to repairs and bragging rights (although there are economic bragging rights that some people do take advantage of).

But today let’s not look at facts. Let’s look at psychology.

The term “used” implies that somebody else has already “used” it. Subconsciously, the word “used” implies:

Partially consumed (not complete anymore)

Lower quality (not the latest, up-to-date technology, for instance)

Worn (no longer shiny and new)

Rusty (yuck!)

Nobody gets too excited about a “used” car. It is usually a practical choice, an economic compromise for people who would probably much prefer a brand new vehicle.

In case you were wondering, a “classic” car Is amazing. An “antique car is wonderful. A “used” car is just used. There is a world of difference psychologically between a “classic” 1957 Ford Thunderbird or Chevy Belair and a “used” 2001 Saturn Wagon.

But “used” is actually an attractive term for some people.

People who are hard up financially, whose whole life centers around making ends meet. These people don’t even think about buying new. Not furniture, not cutlery. And certainly not cars. For them, the word “used” signals a product that is within their universe, one that they don’t ignore as if it wasn’t even there. For them, “used” is actually a term of engagement.

Similar to the hard up financially are the naturally frugal, people who grew up in a frugal environment and are used to buying used, to searching for bargains, to haggling – not necessarily because they desperately need to save every penny, but because psychologically it would feel “wasteful” to pay anything above bottom price. For such people, “used” is also a powerful term of engagement.

Then there are the green folks, environmentally conscientious people who follow the mantra of “reduce, reuse and recycle”. When these folks live in the city, they might not even own a car, being able to reduce their usage by taking public transit. But many will still want to own a vehicle for weekends and intra-city travel and other places and times when public transit does not provide adequate service. And rural green folks have little choice but to own a car.

For those green folks who do buy a car, “used” means that they are reusing, which is good. They might not like having to drive a machine often reviled for its polluting emissions, but at least they are reusing a vehicle rather than buying new. Yes, for these folks, “new” would be a total turn-off; “used” means they are hallowed ground – hallowed enough to justify owning a car.

Finally, there are people who already have a nice new car, but they need a second car to coordinate a family that does not always go everywhere together. The idea of having a nice, new car appeals to them and their pride. The idea of supporting a second new vehicle seems excessive to them and would cramp their lifestyle in other areas for financial reasons. For these unlikely used-car lovers, “used” is temporarily an effective term of engagement.

If you have a used car to sell, why not try targeting these four markets:

Desperately poor

Naturally frugal


Second-car families

You might be surprised how quickly someone snaps up that old beater you thought you could never unload. Yes, there is a market for even the most used used car.