Buying a Cadillac can deplete your bank account faster than you can count to three. They may be beautiful cars, but no one's going to deny they come with a big price tag- something that, for most of us at least, puts owning a new Caddy well outside the realms of possibility. But who says it has to be new? Used Cadillacs carry the same status, the same quality, and the same craftmanship as a brand-new model - just at a slightly reduced price. Obviously, we're not considering those very rare, very coveted Caddy's that fetch more at auction than you want to know about. But for the standard issue models, going the used route could make your dream of owning a Cadillac that must more obtainable. It's not, however, without its risks. Used car are exactly that - what looks shiny and new on the surface could be hiding a heap of maintenance issues and shoddy repairs under the bonnet. If you're in the market for a used Cadillac, it pays to do your research beforehand. Finding out exactly what you should be looking for (and then doing just that) could save you a heap of heartache (not to mention money) down the line.
Pick a Model
You probably have a good idea of which Cadillac you're looking for. And if you don't, you really should. While it's always good to be flexible, you'll be much more likely to come out of the buying experience with a smile on your face if you go into it with a good idea of what you want. Some Cadillac's are good for families; others are better for single people. Some have such complicated innards, it'd take a rocket scientist to understand them; others are simple enough for you to do your own maintenance. Some come with known 'issues' that could cause you bother down the line; others are likely to run for years with barely a whisper of complaint. Figuring out exactly what you need in terms of size, features, and functions is a vital first step. If you ignore what you need and simply go with what looks the prettiest, you're setting yourself up for a very expensive mistake.
As Autotrader.com writes, a good place to start when it comes to picking your preferred model is to decide on what kind of body style you want. As well as being in line with your personal taste, it'll also need to be a good match for your lifestyle and requirements. Consider how many passengers you'll be carrying, what kind of storage space you'll need, even what kind of safety features are non-negotiable. Once you've got a good idea of what kind of body style you want, start researching which Cadillac models make a good match.
Decide on a Budget
There's no shortage of used Cadillac's on the market, some with bigger price tags than others. Before you start making any enquires, decide on your budget (although it'll help if you scour some online auctions first to get a good idea of average prices). When you're considering your budget, don't just factor in the price of the car itself. Running costs, fuels costs, servicing, and repairs can all dig a deep hole in your savings, especially in the case of used cars. While today's cars tend to be fuel efficient, older cars are often anything but.
A used model is also likely to require more ongoing maintenance work than a new car, the cost of which shouldn't be underestimated. If the car you're looking at is 20 years plus, there's a good chance that GM have discontinued the parts. Not only does this make sourcing a problem, it also drives up the cost of the few parts that ARE still around. If you're on a tight budget, it may be worth considering a newer model that still has widely available parts and less miles behind the clock - the initial outlay be higher, but your overall spend over the car's lifetime is likely to be less.
Research, Research, Research
If you find a car you like on an online auction, do your research before you arrange a test drive. If the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) isn't included in the listing, ask for it. Once you have it, use it to secure a comprehensive Vehicle History Report from CARFAX. It comes with a one-time fee, but the information you get from it will potentially save you from making a much more expensive mistake down the line. Better yet, once you pay the fee once, you can use the resource to access reports on as many cars as you like. Along with telling you if the car is a rebuild, if it's ever been written off, flooded, or stolen, you'll get a score of other useful facts about the vehicle that could be invaluable in helping you reach a decision about whether it's even worth seeing, let alone buying.
Learn the Lingo
Buying a Cadillac isn't like buying a Ford. Or an Audi. Or, indeed, any other type of car. Cadillac's come with specific features, functions, and all too often, lingo. If you're buying a Caddy, whether it's used or new, a crash course in Cadillac lingo is going to come in useful. As gearpatrol.com notes, some of the most important terms to note include:
- Blackwing: Blackwing is a Cadillac-exclusive twin-turbo V8 engine with a “Hot V” alignment. It debuted on the 2019 CT6-V but it's since been used on several other models.
- CT: CT (or “Cadillac Touring” to give it its full name), is used to describe any vehicle that's not an SUV.
- NorthStar: NorthStar is the name of the super powerful Cadillac V8 engine that was used on cars built between 1992 and 2011. Although very sophisticated and something of a favorite among Caddy fan's, it known to require relatively frequent (and exorbitantly expensive) repairs.
- Super Cruise: Super Cruise is the name of Cadillac’s hands-free semi-autonomous driving system. Although it requires supervision, it essentially allows the car to steer, accelerate, and brake unassisted.
- XT: “Crossover Touring" or XT is the Caddy-specific name for an SUV.
- V Series: If you're in the market for a super high-end model, the V-series (in other words, Cadillac’s performance division) is likely to appeal.
- V Sport: A sporty trim level.
Know Your Models
Knowing your lingo is one thing, knowing your models is another. If you want to give yourself the best chance of ending up with a car you'll love for decades, understanding the variety of Cadillac models on offer is vital.
Sites like gearpatrol.com and theautochannel.com are incredibly helpful resources for getting the lowdown on each and every model. In the meantime, some of the most popular options include:
- XT4: The XT4 debuted in 2019. An entry-level compact crossover, it's might not be as luxurious as other options, but if you're in the market for a simple Cadillac with some great little features, it's a winner. Choose between either the front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and the "Sport” trim or “Premium Luxury” versions.
- XT5: The XT5 from 2017 is a spacious, powerful beast with plenty of leg room and storage space. Excellent for families, the one criticism that can be levied at it is that it lacks the luxury you'd normally associate with Cadillac.
- XT6: Available in either FWD or AWD, the XT6 has become incredibly popular since it debuted in 2019. A three-row midsize crossover, it's slightly less powerful than comparable models like the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4MATIC and the BMW X5, but is generally offered at a lower price point.
- Escalade: Since being introduced in 1999, the Escalade has become one of Cadillac's most loved models. Huge, powerful, and spacious enough to seat up to 8 passengers, it's a beast of a car that offers a surprisingly smooth ride.
- CT6: The CT6 is a full-sized sedan that's been around since 2016. As the only Cadillac currently available with the iconic Super Cruise system, it's a coveted number that's available in a choice between a 3.6-liter V6 with a 335 hp, a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 with a 404 hp, and a 4.2-liter “Blackwing V8” with a 500 hp.
- CTS: The CTS ended its run in 2019 but remains a popular option on the used car market thanks to its luxurious, comfortable interior and stylish exterior. Buyers can choose between the Standard trim with its 268-hp 2.0-liter turbo and RWD, or the Luxury and Premium Luxury trims with their 3.6-liter V6 with 335 hp and AWD. If you want to up the power to the max, you could also scour the market for a V-Sport or V-Sport Premium Luxury trim, both of which come with a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 offering 420 hp.
- CTS-V: Like the CTS, the CTS-V went out of business in 2019. Best described as a CTS on steroids, it comes with 640 hp, top speeds of 200-mph, and the ability to go from 0- 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.
- XTS: A full-size luxury sedan with a 3.6-liter V6 with 304 hp, the XTS is a powerful, family-friendly option, that sadly went obsolete in 2019.
- ATS: If you want a sporty, compact number with a choice between a 2.0-liter turbo (272 hp) and a 3.6-liter V6 (335 hp), the ATS could be right up your street.
- ATS-V: The ATS-V is a pimped-up version of the ATS that offers top speeds of 189 mph, a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 making 464 hp, and the choice between an eight-speed automatic and a six-speed manual.
Choose a Seller
Some people prefer private sellers. After all, only someone who's owned and driven a car can give you the full scoop on what it's like. But as edmunds.com notes, there's a lot to be said for going the dealership route. If you find a fault with the car that wasn't disclosed at the point of sale, your chances of getting it fixed for free are much higher if you bought from a dealer rather than a private seller. A dealer is also likely to be able to help you with financing options in a way a private seller can't. On the other hand, most private sellers are easier to negotiate with, giving you a better chance of a great deal. Ultimately, both come with certain risks and certain advantages - just be sure to be aware of both before deciding which way to go.
Perform a Physical Inspection
No matter how low the mileage, how pretty the picture, and how responsive the seller, never, ever buy a used car (Cadillac or otherwise) without completing a physical inspection. If you don't know too much about mechanics, it may be helpful to bring along someone who does. During the inspection, take your time to inspect every inch of both the interior and exterior. If possible, inspect the car where it's normally parked. Look out for any signed of stains on the driveway - it could indicate a leak. Some buyers can feel too shy or embarrassed to conduct a really thorough inspection while the owner is looking on.
Don't be. Even a used Cadillac represents a huge investment - if the car has flaws, you need to know about them. Not only can a proper inspection reduce the risk of you ending up with a dud on your hands, it'll also make you look more like a serious buyer to the seller (and trust us, a seller would far rather spend three hours with a serious buyer than ten minutes with a time-waster). If you find any flaws, don't necessarily discount the car off-hand. At the end of the day, very few used cars are going to be completely perfect. Not all flaws are deal breakers - a few minor issues can usually be rectified easily enough, and providing you use them as a bargaining tool, the cost of repair can usually be offset by a lower selling price.
Take a Test Drive
Your inspection doesn't end with a once-over. Always ask to take a test drive - and make sure it's scheduled for long enough to give you a good idea of how the car runs and how all its functions perform. As you're driving, ask yourself how spacious the interior feels. Is there enough leg room? Enough head room? If you have a family, is there enough space to fit them comfortably? What about the acceleration? If it powerful enough? Too powerful? Does the air conditioning blow cold? Are there any strange noices? Test the brakes - do they bring the car to a smooth stop? How about the suspension - does it offers a smooth ride over bumps? Be sure to check the interior controls and displays as you drive to check for legibility.
Once you've decided the car you've seen is definitely the one for you, be prepared to negotiate. Very rarely will a seller advertise a car at the price they actually expect to get, so don't be afraid to haggle. And if the price isn't right, walk away. Blowing a massive hole in your savings for a used car defeats the object of buying used rather than new. Keep looking. The right car with the right price is out there - it might just take a bit more work to find it.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith