Buying a used car is a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little research, you can make a confident and informed purchase.
Before beginning your search, it’s important to determine your budget and establish a list of priorities for your vehicle. This will help you narrow down your options and avoid overspending.
1. Determine Your Budget
Buying a used car can be expensive, but it’s an investment that can pay off over time. However, it’s important to understand your budget before you start shopping. If you’re not careful, you could overspend and end up with a car that’s more than you can afford to maintain.
To determine your maximum budget, take a close look at your monthly take-home income. This will give you an accurate picture of what you can comfortably afford to spend on a vehicle and other monthly expenses. Remember to factor in the cost of gas, maintenance fees, insurance, registration, and any other costs that may come up down the road.
Once you know your budget, think about the main reasons why you need a vehicle. For example, if you commute long distances, consider a vehicle that’s fuel-efficient. Or, if you need to tow a trailer occasionally, opt for a truck or larger SUV. Finally, don’t forget to take into account the popularity of a particular vehicle model as this will affect its pricing and resale value.
Once you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, research the specific vehicles in your price range using online resources like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. These tools will help you find the best options in your area and identify the most reliable brands. You can also use these resources to calculate the estimated costs of the models you’re interested in.
2. Research the Vehicles You Want
Once you have a firm idea of your budget, it’s time to research the vehicles you want to buy. There are plenty of online resources to use, from car-buying guides to consumer reviews and YouTube videos. Many of these sites will also allow you to filter by vehicle features, so if you need a car that has a remote start or heated seats, you can easily find one.
When researching a particular vehicle, make sure you take a look at its reliability rating, safety tests and owner opinions. If it’s an older model, you should check to see if it has been in any major accidents. Regardless of the age of the car, you should always read a vehicle history report (VHR) before making a purchase. These reports can save you a lot of trouble, as they can indicate whether the car has been stolen or had an accident.
If you can, try to narrow your search down to a few vehicles by making a list of the must-have features you’re looking for. This will help you avoid buying a vehicle that doesn’t have the amenities you need, like a backup camera or a navigation system. If you can, also consider running a side-by-side comparison of the different models in your price range to get an even better sense of how each one stacks up.
3. Find a Dealer
It’s important to find a dealer you can trust. If you decide to buy from a dealership, look for independent dealers that don’t have affiliations with specific automakers. You can also search for reviews of local dealers online to get a feel for the dealers in your area.
When you’re ready to shop, a dealer can help with the financing process and often have more models and options in stock. It can also be helpful to work with a salesperson who you’re comfortable working with, as this can help make the process more enjoyable.
One thing to be aware of is that dealers can sometimes push you toward a longer loan term than you want, especially if they think you’re “payment shopper.” This is why it’s important to line up financing before you head into a dealership.
If you’re buying from a private seller, be sure to ask them about any warranties they may have. In some states, the law requires dealers to disclose whether a vehicle is sold “as is” and to describe any verbal promises made by the dealer. These disclosures are typically written in the Buyers Guide and can override any language in a contract. Also, if the dealer has an option to sell the car with a warranty, ask them to show you a copy of that warranty before signing any documents.
4. Make the Offer
Once you’ve determined your budget, figured out what cars you want to look at, and know how much similar vehicles in the area are selling for, you’re ready to start talking numbers. It’s important to do your research before physically going to buy the vehicle in order to ensure you get a fair deal and a car that will be enjoyable to drive for years.
If you’re financing a used vehicle, be sure to make sure you’ve got your preapproval in place before you head to the dealer. This will give you some leverage when negotiating the price. Be ready to walk away if the seller is unwilling to come to an agreement. There are plenty of other used cars that are available in the same area, so don’t be afraid to keep shopping if you can’t find a deal that you’re happy with.
When negotiating the price of a used car, remember that you’re not comparing apples to apples, so be prepared to negotiate a bit higher than what you would for a new vehicle. Be sure to factor in any maintenance the vehicle may need. For example, uneven tire tread could indicate that the previous owner drove the car hard, which can reduce the life of the tires.
Also, if the car has been in an accident or flood-damaged, be sure to ask for a copy of the vehicle history report from a service like CarFax or AutoCheck. Then, bring it to a trusted mechanic for a thorough inspection before you finalize the sale.