Buying a used car is easier today than it has ever been. The market for buying used cars is vastly growing and it’s safe to say that the car you want is out there, you just have to do a little digging. It’s a luxury for anyone to be able to hop online and buy whatever they want when they want it. You can purchase just about anything online, from clothes and shoes to furniture and food…all with the press of a button. Buying a used car could be that simple, but it really shouldn’t be. In other words, there are several things you should consider and question before buying a used car.
#1. Study up
There is a crazy big selection of cars out there. The first thing to do when you are deciding what car to get is ask yourself the following: what you need it to do (i.e. drive the kids to school/practice or haul camping gear for weekend trips) and what you admire in a vehicle (AWD, color, leather seats, etc.) It may also help to read a car forum to get an idea of which cars require more/less maintenance and hear about other peoples’ experiences buying used as opposed to brand new. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to narrow down your list of two or three makes/models and then move on to figuring out how much you are willing to pay.
#2. Figure out your budget
Buying a used car requires a bit more TLC. With this in mind, determine how much you are able to pay Including the costs associated with tax, car title, registration, warranty, and insurance. If you are taking a loan out on your car, your payment should generally be no more than 20% of your take-home pay. If the seller still owes money on it, you will want to be clear about making arrangements to have the note paid off and title transferred over to you. It is encouraged to get an extended warranty when buying a used car because these vehicles are often no longer under manufacturer’s warranty and you risk expensive repairs and upkeep. The cost of repairs and maintenance vary between makes and models… do your research!
#3. Test drive and check it out
Test driving and inspecting the vehicle is an opportunity to see if the car is in good shape and running well. Never skip out on doing a test drive! During the drive, listen for any noises and feel for shakes and vibrations. Plan your route for the test drive so that you have several opportunities to check the smoothness of steering and stopping power. These are some general things to keep in mind whether you are hiring someone to check the interior/exterior of the car, or doing it on your own:
Exterior: body condition, paint job, lights, tires (check for wear and tear) and always looks underneath the car for rust
Interior: seats, controls, odometer, gearshift, odor and other instruments
Under the hood: radiator, fluids, belts, hoses, and check for leaks
#4. Ask questions
Always contact the seller and ask questions about why they decided to put the car up for sale. It is always beneficial to get sellers on the phone because you will be able to build rapport and if it goes well enough, you may be able to negotiate prices more comfortably. Do not forget to ask about a vehicle history report and if they do not provide one, get a complete report from CARFAX. Typically, dealerships or other retailers will facilitate getting this report for you, which is helpful. In terms of negotiating a deal, decide beforehand how much you are willing to spend and start there. Your first offer should always be lower than your maximum price.
#5. Cover all your bases
Buying a used car can happen in four main places: a used car selection of a new-car dealership, independent used-car lots, used-car retailers and websites where private party sellers list their cars. Of the four, the private-party cars will have the lowest selling price. When you’re dealing with private parties, it is important to read maintenance records carefully and get the clearest picture of what state the car is in through test driving and asking questions. Again, extended warranties are encouraged when buying a used car and it is in your best interest to utilize companies like TRED, who will eliminate the stress and risk of buying from complete strangers. Utilize professional mechanics to do inspections because they know manufacturer standards and will give you unbiased opinions.
Buying a used car is great if you want to save some money and don’t mind if a car is two or three years old. There are hundreds of options out there; you just have to think hard about what you need.
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