Used cars can represent fantastic savings in vehicle purchases if you know what to do. Here are some general guidelines to help you.
Understand Your Finances
As with any large purchase, start with understanding your finances. This is probably the most important part of the process. Buying a used auto will be easier and less stressful if you know your budget and stick to it. Remember that you should determine what you can afford whether you pay cash or get a loan. If you get a loan then understand the down payment and monthly repayments and how that will impact your cashflow. The car you buy will also need insurance. Factor all this into your budget. Don’t be tempted to go over budget as this will only cause personal problems down the track.
Do Your Research
With your finances worked out, you can now continue on to the second most important step: Research! There is loads of information and resources on the Internet to help you with this stage of the process. Are you looking for a hybrid? Maybe a sports car? Just as if you were looking for a new car, make sure you do the research of the particular make and model you’re after so that you know what they are worth.
Inspect, Inspect, Inspect
As you can imagine with purchasing a used car, your primary objective should be determining the car’s condition and history. Take a look at the service history of the car. Has it been regularly serviced and by reputable mechanics? An initial list of questions to the seller (by phone call) might include:
What is the condition of the car?
How many miles has the car travelled?
Are you the original owner or has this car had multiple owners?
Has this car ever been in an accident?
What papers come with this car?
Why are you selling it?
As with a new car, you will want to see the car in person and take it for a test drive. This is a great opportunity to look for the things that might not show up in a photo, such as scratches, dings, paint variations, rust, or tears in seat fabric. Check the wear on the pedals and check the condition of the trunk material as these can often give you a good impression on how well the car has been looked after. You will also want to inspect the tires for sufficient amounts of tread. When you get it on the road, check out its features and handling. Note specific things such as brake handling, suspension, and alignment. Also, remember to check under the hood, and under the car itself for oil leaks. Be thorough and check the overall functionality of everything.
If your car is still to your satisfaction you should always have the car professionally inspected by a mechanic. It is wise to have an objective opinion as to the condition of the car.
When you feel comfortable that the car is the right one for you try to negotiate the price down. Your research should have indicated what the market value of the car is worth. Take into account possible Blue Book prices on the car and the information that was discovered during the mechanic’s inspection. Did you get the feeling that the seller is eager to sell? Chances are you can settle on a price that’s lower than the seller’s original asking price.
Get everything in writing before you sign, which is especially important if you have any kind of guarantee or warranty on you car. Also collect all the necessary papers that come with your new car.