With the plethora of information available today, the consumer has the upper hand when it comes to buying a used car.
But if you don’t do your homework and go into the process blindly, you can get royally screwed. Follow these 8 tips to buying a used car to make sure you get a good deal.
Know Your Budget
Before you begin the process of buying a used car, know exactly how much you can spend. Set a budget and make sure to stick to it. This needs to be a strict budget because it’s easy to get lured into a pricier car. After you set your budget you can then put all of your attention on finding the best car that fits your budget.
Ideally you should save up for a car so you can buy it outright. It’s never a good idea to pay interest on top of the price of the car. If you can’t manage to save up for a car, then you probably can’t handle making your monthly payment on time every time either.
Research Cars In Your Budget
Once you’ve set a budget, pick a make and model you want that’s in that price range. Find the true value of the used car on Kelley’s Blue Book (kbb.com). Decide if you want a practical newer car with less miles or an older luxury car with more miles.
Every car has different pros and cons. If you get a sports car, realize that the parts are going to cost more, as is the insurance and the gas, both in miles per gallon and in the grade of fuel you need to use.
Get a car that fits your current needs. If you need a car to go to and from school or work every day, get a small car with a good mpg rate. If you need a family car or SUV, get one with an excellent safety record.
Leave Emotion Out Of It
Shop with your head and don’t let your heart do the buying. After all, it’s your wallet that’s going to pay for the car, not your heart. If you let your emotions take control you’ll end up with the car of your dreams but broke because of it.
While car shopping, concentrate on the statistics to determine which car is best for you. The stats you should be thinking about are: price, year, mileage, miles per gallon and interest rate. If the numbers are right, then that’s how you’ll know the car is right for you.
If your car has broken down and you need a new one right away, odds are you’re going to make an impulse buy. You can plan ahead by properly maintaining your current car so it won’t break down on you unexpectedly.
If you wait until the last minute to buy a car, you lose a lot of power. You need to have the ability to walk away from any deal. This is the most powerful thing you can do in any negotiation.
When you plan ahead, it benefits you financially. You will either have enough money to buy the car in cash, enough money for a solid down payment or you’ve fixed any errors on your credit report to ensure you get the best rate on a car loan.
Look For Used Cars Online
Don’t limit your search for a used car to a local car lot or the dealership. There’s hundreds, if not thousands of other better deals out there.
Search for used cars in your area on cars.com, auto trade.com, craigslist and eBay. You can search for cars based on the make, year, miles, price range and geographical distance to limit your results.
Get The Carfax
Before buying a used car, obtain the vehicle history report. Many sellers will provide this for you. You can get the report from either AutoCheck.com or Carfax.com.
The report will show you if the car has been in a bad wreck and has a salvage title or if the odometer has been rolled back. You can see a history of the smog checks done and get an idea if the car has any red flags.
Take It To A Mechanic
It’s important to take the car out for a test drive. It’s important not just so you can see that the car runs fine, but to see if you like all the minor details such as the noise the car makes, the comfortableness of the seat, the look of the dash and the smoothness of the ride.
But that’s not enough, you’ll need to have a professional mechanic look it over. Most mechanics offer this service very cheap or even free.
The mechanic will tell you about any minor things going on such as a small leak or whether it needs an oil change or a tuneup. But they will also point out major items that will need to be addressed in the future. These are the red flags you need to look out for. Even if a car is running fine now, it may need a new radiator in the next few months.
Negotiate The Deal
The most powerful thing you can bring to a negotiation is knowledge. This is why you’ll need to research other cars in your area so you know what is a realistic price to negotiate. Have this information with you so you can share it with the seller. It is then up to them to see if they want to lower their price to beat their competitors.
If you do not get the deal you want, be sure to walk away. By ending the negotiation, you’re showing that you’re not desperate. This increases the chances the seller will either lower their price on the spot, or will reconsider and call you later in the day to agree to your offer.