Buying a car can be stressful. Buying a used car can be even more stressful than buying new. Not only do you have to deal with negotiating prices and choosing the right car, but you also need to consider the car’s history.
You might be surprised how many used cars are almost as nice as brand-new vehicles, at a fraction of the cost. Use these tips to help you navigate the used car market and get a reliable used car that doesn’t break the bank.
Know Your Budget
Before you start your used car search, establish your budget. You may also want to consider financing, depending on the age and condition of the vehicles you plan to shop.
Don’t forget to include the cost of maintenance and car insurance when setting your budget. Once you know how much you can afford, be sure to stick to that budget. It can be easy to be tempted into a more expensive car when you’re at a dealership, so be ready to say no if a car is out of your price range. When negotiating price, it might be best to start below the maximum amount you are willing to pay.
Do Your Research and Pick a Few Reliable Models
You might know that you want a certain type of vehicle, such as a pickup truck or SUV, but you may not know what models suit your tastes. Research online for different brand and model reliability ratings. A model year of one of your favorite vehicles may have known issues, for example. You can make sure to avoid any models from that year when shopping.
Choose a few reliable models of vehicles that fit all your needs. Even if you’ve never wanted a certain brand, check to see if the price or reliability ratings are better than the brands you want. You may be surprised that just choosing a different make of a similar vehicle can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Find Used Cars in Your Area
There are several ways to find used cars. Start your search either by visiting a few dealerships or used car lots in your area, or search online for private sellers. There are many online marketplaces that offer used car sales. Don’t give out any personal information to an online seller until you can verify their identity.
Dealerships and used car stores also often have online inventory lists. This makes it easy to see what types of used vehicles the dealer has in stock.
Compare Prices and Shop Around
Don’t be afraid to call and ask the price of a vehicle you think could be a good fit. This gives you an idea of what the car’s you want are priced in your area. You should always shop around when buying a car to find the best price. Popular models, for example, might be easy to find and the price difference could be significant. You could save a lot on the price of your used car by looking at multiple cars of the same make and model.
Check the Car’s History
A vehicle history report is an easy way to help safeguard you from a car that could have potential mechanical issues. There are plenty of car report companies that can quickly run a vehicle history report online. You’ll usually need the car’s Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, to get the report. Expect to pay about $20-$50 per report.
If a report comes back and you have questions, be sure to ask the seller about it. Something that may look concerning on the report may be a minor issue.
Get in Touch with the Seller
Call, email or text the seller or dealership for more information about the car. Ask any questions you might have. Consider writing up a used car questions list of anything you may want to know about a used car before you contact the seller. Work on the list for a few days so you get all the questions you’ll want to ask.
Contacting the seller is also a good time to check that the vehicle is still available. You can set up a time to meet and look at the car for a test drive. Always set up a meeting with private sellers in a public space during the daytime for your safety.
Take a Test Drive
Take the car for a spin to get a feel for how it drives. Make notes about the car so you can remember the details later. In addition to how the vehicle drives, such as handling and acceleration, think about how it feels to get in and out of the car. You should also consider how easy it is to use features of the vehicle. If you often use your trunk for storage, for example, make sure the car’s truck gives you easy access to the entire area.
Get a Pre-Purchase Inspection
You can take a used car to your trusted mechanic for a used car inspection. Your mechanic will look over the engine and mechanical aspects of the vehicle. This is one of the most important steps to buy a used car. A pre-purchase inspection can help you catch any worn parts that may cause issues sooner rather than later.
Negotiate the Price
Once you’ve found a vehicle that fits your needs, drives well and is in good shape, you can start negotiating the price. Whether you’re working with a private seller or dealer, it’s always a good idea to try and haggle the price down. Come prepared with the vehicle history report and mechanic’s inspection report. You should also do research on the value of the vehicle. Look at similar vehicles for sale nearby for comparable asking prices, as well as online pricing guides to see professional values for the car.
After you negotiate a fair price, take a breath and enjoy your new-to-you vehicle.