Buying a used car is no easy task! Here are some steps to help you with the process:
1. Do your homework
Consider things like:
- Distance to and from work;
- Daily/weekly activities; and
- The number of people you need to accommodate.
Once you have a general idea of what you need, there is this incredible tool it's called: the internet. Use it. You will find loads of information on car makes, car models, bad years, great years (for the same car). You will get a lot of information that will help you narrow down options based on what you need.
2. Find the going price
Be smart about your budget. Kelley Blue Book (KBB) is the industry standard when it comes to what a vehicle should cost based on mileage, model, year, and features. Use this tool as a way to establish a baseline. No car will perfectly fall into a pricing tier set by KBB; most of the time the price will fluctuate between two tiers.
3. Ask questions
I probably shouldn’t have to tell you, but cars are expensive – so do not feel like any question is too insignificant, especially when you are buying used. The more information you have the better prepared you will be to make a decision.
This is a great time to bring up any questions or concerns you may have found in your initial homework research.
4. Look the car over
If you’re still feeling great after you’ve asked all your questions, make sure to look the car over before you take it for a spin. Look at the wheels, doors, trunk and bumpers. Take in ALL the dings, cracks and paint job.
If you are able and have a trusted mechanic, I would suggest having them give the engine a once over, paying $45-$75 for a mechanic to give you a full diagnostic might save you THOUSANDS of dollars in the long run.
5. Take a test drive
Take your time when you test drive. See how the steering handles around turns, carefully observe the breaks when you use them, if the car has power features (windows/seats) test them, check the hinges on the glove box and arm rest compartment. Use the windshield wipers. Are you expecting perfection? Maybe, maybe not – but at the very least you want function. Make sure that wherever you test drive the car you are able to go more than 60mph at some point.
6. Get history report
This is especially important if you are buying a used car from someone who is not the original owner, or someone who didn’t keep great records. Most Lemons come in way of poor maintenance and shoddy work. Get the 17-digit code on the dashboard and run the number through companies like CARFAX or Autocheck.
Cars are machines and break downs and up-keep is a part of the package for ANY CAR, so use extreme caution when sellers don’t know much about the maintenance of their car. If they are selling it for a friend - that’s really not an excuse.
7. Negotiate the price
Take in all the information, research and experience you’ve had with the car (also be conscience of your budget), there is always room to negotiate. Remember: if the asking price is just unreasonably too high, you can always walk away.
8. Avoid dealership financing
Check with your bank or credit union before you settle for dealership financing. Even if the dealership offers a great rate, check with a bank or credit union – they will almost ALWAYS come back with a better rate.
9. Bring a friend
Friends give you another set of eyes, they might catch things you miss, and most of the time they are a reliable non-bias source. On a side note: bringing a friend is also safer, especially if you are meeting the seller somewhere and not at a dealership.
10. Use your instincts.
Trust yourself. Be fully aware of the vehicles you are test driving, because once you get the loan or hand over the cash, you are responsible for all the repairs and maintenance.
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