Tips for Buying a Used Car
Before the rise of the internet, shopping for a pre-owned car used to be a much more challenging endeavor. However, times have changed, and with many online automotive resources readily accessible, you’re able to arm yourself with much information — giving you the ability to make a wise car purchase decision. Check out these tips for buying a used car.
Assess Your Budget
Before you even start hunting around for a used car, you’ll want to assess how much you’re willing to spend. Evaluate your budget and calculate your maximum monthly payments. You’ll also want to research your financing options, while also accounting for the costs of tax, title, registration and insurance.
Look for a Car that Best Fits Your Needs
While it’s easy to be attracted to the “flashy” elements of a car or be drawn to one that’s out of your price range, it’s best to look for one that accurately fulfills your needs. Make a list of all the things you need you car to do (e.g. commute to work, good fuel economy) and cross-reference it with the desirable qualities of a vehicle (e.g. body style, colors).
Utilize the Internet for Research
The internet provides a wealth of information to help you in your car buying decision, including sites like Kelley Blue Book and Carfax, as well as reviews from owners of your targeted model. Also, you can head to the websites of manufacturers, for often they provide information on their previous models.
Communication with Seller
You’ll want to make sure you ask the right questions when communicating with the seller of a vehicle. If buying from a private party, ask why they are selling the vehicle. For both private party sellers and dealerships, ask them to describe the vehicle’s condition and request to see the maintenance and mechanical records of the car. Also, ask if it’s o.k. to take the car to a private mechanic for inspection.
Check Vehicle History and Safety Report
Every car should have a vehicle title with Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Get the VIN number from your targeted model and use it to get both a history and safety report. AutoCheck is a good online resource to get the vehicle history report, while you can view the car’s recall history by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website.
Walk-Around and Test Drive
Give the vehicle a thorough walk-around. Check for things like uneven tire wear, signs of possible body repair or repainting, underbody elements and the condition of each foot pedal, which may show signs of driver abuse. When test driving the vehicle, use this opportunity to gauge its driving characteristics. Things to look out for include seat comfort, cockpit ergonomics, dashboard warning lights, engine noise, steering vibration and brake condition.
Before negotiating a price, utilize online resources like Kelley Blue Book and Carfax to determine the car’s average value. Unless the seller states from the onset that the car has a “firm price” or “no haggle pricing,” you can typically negotiate downward. If buying from a private party, you generally can get a cheaper price, but usually the car is sold “as is,” without the assurance of warranty protection that you’ll often get with a dealership. Also, many dealerships sell Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles, which enables you to extend the warranties out a number of years.