A used car can be a great investment. Many older vehicles were built to last. They might not have all the latest comfort features, but a little more steel in the chassis can make a big difference in an accident. When they’ve been maintained properly, they can deliver years of reliable service.
Unfortunately, buying a used car is not always a consumer-friendly experience! Having the right tips for buying a used car can help you find a vehicle that lives up to your expectations. The process of buying a used car hasn’t changed much over the years, but there are more resources at your fingertips.
Let’s take a closer look at auto buying tips that make a real difference.
The Most Important Tips for Buying a Used Car
A car is a major transaction, and that’s just as true of a used model. No one wants to go through the hassle of buying a car only to replace it a year later. With that in mind, any honest list of auto buying tips must be fairly extensive. A thoughtful, methodical process is most likely to get you a deal.
That said, don’t be intimidated by the length of this list of tips to buying a car. Many of these steps can be done online and the whole process may take only a day or two. It’s wise to get your buying done within a short time, since the used car you want could easily be sold out from under you!
Here are the auto buying tips to keep in mind throughout your search:
1. Prefer Dealers to Private Owners
As a consumer, you benefit from many more protections – and they are easier to access – if you work with a dealer rather than a private owner. Plus, working with a dealer means you can focus on finding the right car for you. With a small list of offers from private dealers, you may be tempted to jump at the lowest price.
2. Develop a Budget
With a dealer, you’ll have financing opportunities that won’t come along otherwise. But if you’re taking out a car loan, remember the monthly payment should be no more than 20% of your take-home pay. Less is better. Be sure you include fuel and insurance in your calculations to know when you’re really looking at a bargain.
3. Decide on a Brand
Unless this is your first car, you probably have some brand loyalty built up – or at least know what you want to avoid! You’ll also find that different brands can vary greatly in aftermarket sales price. Narrow down your search by selecting the three brands you are most interested in.
4. Build a Target List of Vehicles
From brands, you can go down to individual makes and models. Now’s the time to start doing research through local used car lot websites. Note the prices of vehicles you might be interested in and what year they were made. This gives you an idea of what’s likely to be available in your price range.
5. Consider a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Vehicle
When it comes to tips for buying a used car, nothing is more vital than making sure it runs as expected. A Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle comes with a longer warranty and is either relatively new (five years or less) or has been substantially refurbished. Only franchised dealers associated with a brand can sell CPOs for that brand.
6. Locate Good Used Cars
In addition to nearby used car lots, you’ll also want to check out online sources. Some of the lowest prices in your area are sure to be found on sites like CraigsList and AutoList, though these can be vulnerable to bogus listings. AutoTrader is a lesser known site with higher listing standards, and CarMax is considered reputable, too.
7. Check Prices Against the Authoritative Source
Once you’ve found some vehicles you like, it’s time to make sure you are getting good value for your money. Kelley Blue Book is the recognized industry leader in fair aftermarket pricing for automobiles. It will help you assess a car’s true value with reference to factors like age, mileage, options, and condition.
8. Look Up the Vehicle History Report
A vehicle history report is generated by looking up a car’s Vehicle Identification Number on a provider like Carfax or AutoCheck. Serious accidents are usually included on the report, and you can also check to be sure the mileage matches the odometer. Some reports even show whether maintenance was done on time!
9. Avoid Cars with Bad Titles
Few tips to buying a car are as valuable as this, yet it often gets overlooked. The vehicle history report will flag whether or not a car has a “clean title” – meaning that the legal right to transfer ownership actually belongs to the person selling it. Bad titles can happen when buying from a private seller. Avoid at all costs!
10. Avoid Cars with “Salvage Titles”
When a car is in a major accident – a fire, flood, or collision – its value can be completely written off by the insurance company. This is the definition of a “totaled” vehicle. Insurers issue a salvage title to such vehicles so you’ll recognize them when you run a vehicle history report. Such cars often have serious hidden problems.
11. Talk to the Seller
Having a conversation with the seller is absolutely crucial if you’re dealing with a private owner. Get as much insight as you can, including how many owners the car has had and whether it has any issues that weren’t in the advertisement. If a seller balks at the idea of a mechanic inspecting the car, it’s a bad sign.
12. Test Drive the Car
Finally, it’s time to take the car for a spin! Have fun, but keep an eye out for problems that can disqualify the car. Does it offer enough power? Is the steering responsive? Do you notice any blind spots? What about the brakes? Are the controls and layout convenient? And do you hear, smell, or feel anything unusual from the car?
13. Professionally Inspect the Car
Most private owners don’t mind too much if you want a mechanic to inspect a car, but dealers can be touchy. If you have the $100-$200 for an inspection (and the “rental fee” to take the car to a shop), stick to your plan. A CPO vehicle has already been inspected, so you can skip this step.
The best way to negotiate with a used car dealer is to come through the door with a loan in hand. This makes you a “cash” buyer who can negotiate on the car’s price instead of on the monthly payment size. Know how much you’re willing to pay, but use your earlier research to choose a lower first offer that’s still reasonable.
These tips to buying a car have helped people all over the United States get the best deal for them. With your used car picked out, be sure you’re saving on insurance by finding your policy right here at Cheap Insurance!
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