Millions of used cars exchange hands every year all over the world. According to statista.com, 42.7 million light used vehicles were sold in 2017 in the United States alone.
So why should you consider buying a second-hand car instead of new? A used car will save you money on taxes, registration and depreciation (the loss in car value over time due to wear and tear). However, with the numerous options available, getting a car that fits your budget and meets your needs can be quite challenging.
Here are some important guidelines for buying a used car:
- Have a budget
Before you begin shopping for a car, decide how much you are able to spend on it and how you will pay for it. There are two main options for making a used car payment; take a loan or pay cash. If you decide to pay cash, remember to put some money aside for additional costs such as repairs and insurance registration. If you choose to take a car loan, it would be advisable to get preapproved before you go shopping. This will give you an upper hand especially when negotiating with car dealerships. You can use an auto loan calculator to figure out which loan would be most appropriate for you.
- Write down a list of options
Looking for a car without knowing exactly what you want could leave you confused and overwhelmed. Prepare yourself beforehand by writing a list options that meet your needs and are within your budget. A list of 3-5 cars would be ideal to begin with.
- Locate used cars
Here are some of the sites you might want to check out for used cars:
- Craigslist – Sellers advertised used cars for free on this site. Though you might find some great offers on this site, be on the lookout for scammers
- Autolist – This is an aggregator site that compiles information from various sources into one place
- AutoTrader – Sellers pay a fee to list their vehicles on this site. Paid sites are more effective in keeping scammers at bay and offer a wider range of mid- and high-end cars. You can even filter your search by model, make year, features and price.
- CarMax – This site has a large variety to choose from and does not allow negotiation. CarMax also offers financing and includes warranty in their sales.
If you would like to see and touch the cars you are interested in, you can visit one of the numerous used car lots around the country.
- Study the vehicle history
Once you have identified a specific car that seems just right, take time to check its history report. Here are some of the questions you need to ask yourself:
- Is the car title clean? Cars that have been involved in serious floods, fires or accidents usually come with a ‘salvage title’ from the insurance company. Avoid such since they might have hidden problems
- Has the odometer been rewound? Some shady car dealers might want to deceive you by spinning the odometer back
- How many times has the car been sold?
- Was required maintenance carried out on time? Ask the owner for service records
- Have any serious accidents been reported to the insurance company?
You can get this and more information from any of the DMV offices countrywide.
- Test drive the vehicle
When taking the car on a test drive, choose a route that has curves, rough pavements, hills and even straight stretches. Make sure the radio is off and take note of the following things:
- Brakes – Check the side mirrors and rearview mirrors. Are they predictable and responsive?
- Tires – How old are they? How much tread do they have left?
- Visibility – Does the car have any blind spots?
- Cornering and acceleration – Is the steering comfortable? Does the car have sufficient power?
- Ergonomics – Are the controls and gauges within easy reach? Is there sufficient leg room, hiproom and headroom? Are the seats comfortable and easily adjustable?
- Overall mechanical condition – Pay attention to any strange vibrations and noises that could indicate a mechanical problem. Don’t forget to take note of burning oil, gas or any other smells that could indicate that something is amiss.
- Negotiate a fair deal
If you had done your research beforehand, car price negotiation should not be a problem. In most cases, the seller’s asking price is usually higher than the market average. Mention a few concerns you have about the car’s condition and offer a lower price. Always be aware of the tricks that sleek salesmen use to make sure that you buy. If the negotiation is taking too long or you feel manipulated, be ready to walk away.