What Should Be Considered When Buying a Used Car?
Buying a used car can be a challenging and sometimes scary process. Most people aren't mechanics and it's easy to feel as if you'll miss some flaw in the vehicle that will cost a ton of money to repair down the road. About 40 million used vehicles are sold in the United States each year and no one wants to be the person who has to admit, "I bought a lemon." So while this list can't guarantee success, these steps should make it a lot more likely that buying a used car will ultimately leave a smile on your face and a few dollars left in your wallet:
1 - Budget and stick to it
Decide how much you can reasonably afford to pay and don't go over that amount. No matter how much you're tempted by some "perfect" vehicle that only costs a couple of thousand more than you intended to spend. There is a lot of emotion involved in buying a used car, but don't let that emotion carry you into a budget-busting deal.
2 - Be realistic about the car you need and do some research
Most men love the idea of a sports car, but unless you're a 25-year-old junior investment banker, it's probably not a very wise choice for your lifestyle. Decide what type of vehicle best fits your life and research which cars are the best in that class. If you want to save some money, consider choosing a less hip manufacturer whose car still perfectly fits your needs.
3 - Check the hidden ownership costs of your target cars
There are a number of websites that will give you an idea of what it will cost per year to own a specific model and year of a car. Some vehicles are cheaper up front, but even getting a minor item replaced like a starter can be much more expensive. You should figure these long-term costs into your budget and your decision on which used car to buy
4 - Match your car search to your level of expertise and comfort
You can find used cars being sold on everywhere from Craigslist to your local new car dealership. Yes, finding your car in an online ad or from a "For Sale" sign on a corner parking lot might be less expensive. But it's also a more unsettling choice if you're not comfortable with examining used autos or don't have a very knowledgeable friend to tag along with you as your mechanical consultant. On the other hand, buying from a dealer might be more expensive, so these are all factors you have to consider.
5 - Thoroughly test drive the car
Sure, everyone test drives their chosen vehicle. But most people just drive it around a bit and listen for any unexplained scary sounds. Give your potential purchase a real workout. Drive it on smooth roads and bumpy parking lots. See how it handles on a steep hill or curvy road. Look for things you might not like once you're driving it every day. Are there any weird blind spots and is everything comfortable and easy to reach?
6 - Check the vehicle history report
Whether you're buying your used car from a neighbor or a big auto dealership, check the car's history by using the vehicle identification number (VIN) to run a vehicle history report. You'll learn who has previously owned the car, the car's actual mileage, whether it's ever been in a major accident and many other important details. Companies like AutoCheck and CarFax run millions of these checks per year and if you're buying from a dealer, they might already have a vehicle history report available for you.
7 - Make sure to get the used car professionally inspected
One of the biggest mistakes people make when buying a used car is not having it looked at by a professional mechanic. You can generally get it done the same day for about $100 and this will give you the heads-up about any major problems that might be waiting for you. If the person selling the vehicle doesn't want you to get it inspected before buying, then walk away as fast as you can.
8 - Negotiate the best price and close the deal
You should have done the research beforehand and know what the car should sell for on the open market. Don't be pressured into agreeing to a price that is higher than the car's worth just because you want to get the deal done or because you're being pressured. Be willing to pay a fair price. But don't be afraid to walk away if you feel the seller is trying to take advantage of you.
Following these steps should put you well on the way to having a positive used car buying experience. And remember, just because a process might seem scary at first, that doesn't mean you can't end up having a smooth and profitable outcome. Happy motoring!