6 Tips for Purchasing a Used Car
If you've decided it's time to buy a car, you can save a significant amount of money by purchasing a used one. Whether you choose to buy a used car at a local dealership or through an online car buying site, the process can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re buying your first car. However, with some good planning and research, it should be straightforward.
To figure out the car buying process and get the best deal, you need patience and knowledge. Here are six steps to consider when purchasing a used car:
1 - Set a Budget
How much do you want to spend on a used car?
Check your finances first and see how much you can afford and how much you're comfortable paying for a vehicle.
This figure needs to cover more than just the cost of the car.
You'll need car insurance, at the bare minimum, and other expenses may arise upfront or once you buy the car, such as costs related to car maintenance, repairs, upgrades, and taxes. Keep your budget realistic.
2 - Decide What Type Of Car You Want and Do Your Research
How do you intend to use the car? Do you have a long commute every week, or are you interested in long road trips? Maybe you want a car for the family — one that works well for running errands and offers sufficient storage space. These questions will help you decide what type of car you want. If you have a family, a minivan or an SUV would be ideal. For daily commutes, you may want a smaller car with good mileage and fuel economy to help you save money on fuel consumption.
Once you've decided on the type of car you’re interested in, it's time to compare other factors like safety, performance, reliability, comfort, styling, and luxury features that meet your needs. These criteria should help you compare the different vehicles you have in mind. With a clear picture of what you want, do your research and compare the makes, models, and years that meet your specific needs.
Pick three cars during the research process and compare these factors in detail so you can pick the best option for you:
●Current market values
●Current car owners' experiences
●Cost of ownership
●Long-term reliability ratings of the cars
●Resale value of the cars
3 – Start Looking For the Car That Meets Your Requirements
This is the most exciting part of the process. You've now identified the type of car you want, and the next step is to visit dealerships or search online. The goal is to find a car that best fits your requirements. The most vital factors at this point will be the make, model, age, mileage, and price range. Stick to your requirements throughout the process. Don't be swayed to change your mind by sellers or salespersons.
If you can't immediately find the car of your dreams, you don't have to compromise. Be patient and continue checking both online and at other dealerships. Most salespeople will also follow up with you once they find a car that meets your criteria. Never rush to buy a car and never settle for less either. It's wiser to wait a bit longer to find the vehicle you want.
4 - Check the Vehicle History Report
Keep in mind that you're buying a used car, so a simple glance and a few checks here and there will not be enough to tell whether the previous owner took care of the car. It may look new, but it still has a history. That's why you need to request the vehicle's history report. This will provide more details on the car's registration, maintenance records, recall status, and accident history. This info is crucial in determining a car's actual value.
The report should help you identify:
●Any accidents that the car was in
●The original car registration location
●Any gaps in a car's maintenance history
●Whether it has previously been used as a rental
●How often the car was driven
●Previous owners of the car
●If the car has ever been sold at an auction
Checking these details can help you identify any red flags, so take your time to check every detail. If you’re buying a limited-edition car or a classic car to add your collection of used cars, you’ll also need to be extra cautious and request as much information as possible from the original owner, however limited it is. Vehicle history for classic cars may not always be complete.
5 - Take the Vehicle for a Test Drive
It's always advisable to see the car you're buying in person when buying from a car dealer or a private party. A test drive will allow you to check both the interior and exterior of the car, feel the ergonomics, hear the engine running, ensure the car rides smooth and quiet, and look out for anything out of the ordinary. It's also advisable to get a pre-purchase inspection done by a third-party mechanic to look for any issues.
6 - Have a Financing Plan, Negotiate the Price, and Close the Deal
You already have a budget in mind and know the cost of the car you want to buy. Ask yourself these critical questions:
●Do you have enough savings to buy the car in cash?
●If not, you need a financial plan. How's your credit?
●Do you have the cash to make the down payment?
●If applicable, do you have a trade-in?
●Do you want to opt for dealer financing or get bank pre-approval?
You'll want to weigh the pros and cons of getting pre-approval and dealer financing. With pre-approval, you can shop for better interest rates and renegotiate prices. Once you have a financing plan, negotiate the car's price and compare the average market prices to ensure you're getting the best deal. Once you've negotiated a good deal, it's time to close.
If you're buying at a dealership, you'll get the guidance you need throughout the process. Just make sure to read the fine print and ask questions before signing to ensure you're getting exactly what you're paying for and the car you want. If you're buying from a private seller, make sure you get all the necessary documents like the title, bill of sale, and others.
Before you drive off, ensure you get car insurance and meet all other Department of Motor Vehicles requirements. Now you have your car, so go ahead and enjoy the ride. Don’t forget to take good care of your vehicle. Postponing basic and regular car maintenance will only lead to devastating consequences due to car neglect.
A Used Car Is Definitely a Great Option
Buying a used car is a cheaper option when you're tight on cash. Used cars also depreciate slower and give you a better opportunity to know what you're getting into. Financing rates may be higher, and the car will also need greater maintenance and repair needs, but it's all worth it, so long as you understand the car purchase process, ask the right questions, and do your research to find a car that meets your needs.
Jordan McDowell is a writer and automotive enthusiast. He specializes in content that helps car and truck owners get the most from their vehicles through aftermarket upgrades.
About the Author
Automotive enthusiast, passionate about Jeeps, hot-rods, turbos, performance, efficiency, diesels, fuels, high performance oils, additives and anything with an engine.