Make no mistake, buying a used car can offer plenty of ways to find a bargain and make a deal. However, it also takes a careful, smart buyer. Make a mistake, and you could be paying a lot more than the final price for repairs, upkeep, and interest, quickly turning your bargain into a money pit. So when looking for a great used or pre-owned vehicle, follow the right steps to ensure you are getting exactly what you want.
1. Look at All Options
It makes sense to shop around when exploring used cars. You may know what you want, but chances are good you do not know who is offering the best deal in your neighborhood, so it is to your advantage to take it slow and visit several dealerships to help find out who is offering the best deals. However, it is also to your advantage to stay away from personal ads and direct owner sales, which do not have the same kind legitimate paper trail and may have hidden problems. Stick with professionals, but explore your options.
2. Know the New Models
Do not look only at used cards: To buy a good used car, you need to also look at new cars. Study them, find comparable models with similar features to those that you want, and make note of their prices. Then compare the new model prices with older, used model prices to see what the average difference is. This will give you a handy ballpark figure to expect when seeking out a great deal. The Internet is a great place to do this kind of research.
3. Do Your Own Research
Speaking of the Internet and research, when you get down to a specific model there is a lot of information you can and should seek out on your own. Some website will give plenty of information on the model that you are interested in.
4. Use the Buyer Guide
The Buyer’s Guide is a required part of a professional used vehicle sale, usually in the form of a printout posted on the car itself. It will give you valuable information like how the car is sold (as is or with a warranty), so you know exactly what sort of purchase arrangement you are getting. You should also ask for repair records to see how much the seller knows about the vehicle history.
5. Understand the Lingo
Do not be fooled by phrases you do not recognize. If a car has been used as a rental, demo, or executive demo, it might come with extra engine wear. Generally any strange phrase on the Buyer’s Guide, purchase contract, or anything else needs to be understood. These days we have smartphones that let us look up phrases in seconds, so you have no excuse.
6. Do Your Own Visual Inspection
Understand what to look for, and check out the vehicle for problems, from rust and scratches to door problems (a sign of a wreck). Check out the tires. Inspect oil, brake, and coolant fluids – or bring along someone who can.
7. Save Up
The more of the purchase price you have to delay as a car loan, the more your used-car savings will drain away in the form of interest. Save up as much as you can!