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    There are a lot of confusing elements in the process of shopping for a car. If you are planning on buying a used car, deciding on the right model year can be tricky. Unless you have your heart set on a particular model year, deciding on a year can be difficult, and it can even delay your car shopping process. But it doesn't have to be this way. There are a few factors that model year can impact, and once you understand these factors, the shopping process becomes much easier.

    Finances

    Model year can have an impact on a car's cost, even if the car is brand new. In general, the older a car is, the less it will cost. This may not be true for older cars that are in great shape and barely have any mileage on them, but it is a general rule to keep in mind while deciding on a model year to buy. You can't necessarily count on getting lucky while searching for your new car, so if your budget is tight, opting for a slightly older model year is a better idea. But don't go too old, or you may end up with a beat-up car in need of a lot of repairs, which will ultimately end up costing you more in the long run. The car's total mileage can make a difference too, but it's a good idea to narrow your search to cars that are about 3-5 years old if you are looking for a reliable car and you need to spend as little as possible.

    Brand New Vs. Last Year's Model

    Even with new, never-before-owned cars, model year can make a price difference. When dealers are getting ready to clear out their inventory for the newest model year, you can find yourself getting a great deal on a brand-new car. Last year's model could end up costing you considerably less than you would pay if you went for the newest model year. If finances are your main concern, deciding to go for the older, but still new, model year can be a great strategy. Different manufacturers release their new models at different times of the year, so do your research and find out when the new models are slated for release. Dealerships should offer great deals on the soon-to-be-old model year in the weeks running up to the new release date.

    Features

    If you're more concerned about features, going with an older model isn't necessarily the best strategy. It could be that the newest model year offers certain technology, like a stereo with satellite radio, as a standard feature, while last year's model year doesn't offer that technology at all. You may like the way a manufacturer designed a specific model's interior for one model year, but don't like the way they changed it the next year. Cars do change over time, and while some of these changes are gradual, some model years are dramatically different than others. The process of selecting a car based on the year it had certain desired features is a lot less intuitive than considering the financial impact of a car's age.

    Tips for Finding Specific Features by Model Year

    So, how do you find out which model years have the features you want? This is where Internet research comes in handy. There are plenty of comparison tools online that allow you to enter a few different cars and compare them. You can do this with different model years of the same car model. This will allow you to get a high-level look at what's available. For instance, maybe the 2011 model of a specific car comes standard with a CD player, while the 2012 model comes with a USB input interface for a phone or MP3 player. You can also perform an Internet search for the specific car model years you are thinking about to see what journalists and other car reviewers have to say about the features. This way, you can find out if the general consensus is that a certain model year is a dud.

    Nobody said car shopping was easy. In addition to the myriad of different options you have to choose from in terms of manufacturer and model, each model differs from year to year, meaning that model year can be a big deal for those who are concerned about features. Age also has a strong impact on a car's cost, so choosing the right model year can help you get the best possible value on your new car, whether that car is brand new or used. If you want specific features, do your research and make sure you're aware of which model years offer what you're looking for. If you want to save money on a used car, do a lot of comparison shopping and be open to buying cars within a range of years.

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