Tips to Buy a Good Used Car
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Published by TOP4 Team
Why buy used car?
If you have decided to buy a used car, you have already made a smart decision. You can get a car that’s almost as good as a brand-new one without paying for the depreciation that whacks new car buyers as soon as they drive the car off the ground.even cars that are only a year old are 20-30 percent cheaper than brand-new cars. You can save the money for insurance. For those smart used car shoppers, they can bargain for bigger cut. You have to know that some used cars are still under the factory warranty, since most new carmakers now sell certified used cars. For those who worry about the condition of the car, its history can easily be traced using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Moreover, if you buy from a private party, the negotiation process can be less stressful.
Choosing the right used car
At the beginning of the car-buying process, many people already know the car that they want. However, it is a good idea to consider and test your decision with this question: “Will this car fit into my monthly budget?” From now on, make sure your choice is not obviously exceeding your budget. Ask yourself :”Does it meet my current needs?” You may also want to consider building a target list of three different cars in the same class, which built for the same market, but have different features and sometimes lower prices.
Save money by buying second-tier car
The value of a used car is based on its condition, mileage, reliability, performance and popularity. However, think about it. Do you want the same used car that everyone else wants? If so, you will pay a premium for it. In some cases, the difference is the nameplate. How much difference in price separates good-but-popular cars from their good-but-overlooked counterparts? 2-year-old Camrys and Accords may cost $3,000 more than comparable 626s and Galants.
Research your prospective used car
Used car shopping will involve inspecting the vehicle to determine its condition. This process is simplified if you buy a certified used car that has passed a thorough inspection and is backed by a manufacturer’s warranty. However, while buying a certified used car removes a lot of the painful guesswork about the vehicle’s mechanical condition, you definitely have to pay for this service. Most new cars are sold with a three years / 36,000 mile warranty. Therefore, if you buy a car that is from 1-3 years old with fewer than 36,000 miles on the odometer, it will still be under the factory warranty.
How much can you afford?
A smart shopper will consider how to finance the car at the beginning of the shopping process. This will avoid unpleasant surprise later on and help you make an informal decision that fits your budget. If you are going to take a loan, how much can you afford to pay each month? And for the down payment, how much cash can you put down to reduce the monthly payments? Answering these two questions will help you to determine a realistic price range for your used car. Once you have determined how much you can spend for a down payment, a monthly payment and the purchase price of the car, print out these figures. Later, when you are negotiating for a used car, you might need to check this information to bring yourself back to earth.
Set up financing for your used car
You have three ways to buy your dream used car: cash, financing through a bank, online lender or credit union, and financing through the dealer. However, financing through an independent source (online lender, bank or credit union) is highly recommended, since it will usually save money and give you the most control over the transaction. Other advantages by choosing this method are:
- Keep the negotiation simple in the dealership
- Allows you to shop competitive interest rates ahead of time
- Removes dependency on dealership financing
- Encourages you to stick to your budgeted amount
- Low-interest loans can be arranged online
Where to shop for your used car
The three most common places to buy a used car are private parties, the used car section of new car dealership, and independent used car lot. From these options, private parties usually have the most reasonable prices. The transaction will be more relaxing to buy a used car from a party than to face a salesman at a dealership. Still, there are advantages to buy a used car from a new car dealership. Many used cars are trade-ins. Dealerships usually get these cars at very low prices. If you make a little bit higher offer – but one that gives them some profit – you just mught get a great deal. Furthermore, many dealerships offer certified used cars that have been thoroughly inspected and are backed by strong warranties. While the Internet is an amazing resource, you should still try the conventional sources. Ask friends and relatives if they are selling a used car. Keep your eyes peeled on “For Sale” signs in car windows. Scan the bulletin boards at supermarkets or in local schools and colleges. Finally, don’t forget old-faithful newspaper classifieds. Once you find a prospective car, call the seller before you go to see the vehicle. In this way, you can eliminate cars that have problems such as excessive mileage or a salvage title. Verify the asking price in the ad. While talking to the seller, it is a good idea to set up an appointment for a test-drive. If possible, make this appointment during the day so you can see the car in the daylight and more accurately determine its condition. Also ask for the VIN, so you can run a vehicle history report.
Test-driving a used car
Test-driving a used car can helps you to decide whether it is the right car for you. It also gives you deeper knowledge whether this particular car is in a good condition or not. Once you get behind the wheel, ask yourself if it is a good one. Does it offer enough headroom? How about legroom? Are the gauges and controls conveniently positioned? Try to arrange your test-drive, so that you start the engine when it is completely cold. Some cars are harder to start when they are dead cold and it means chronic problem. Turn off the radio before you begin driving – you want to hear the engine and concentrate to the driving experience. On a test-drive, evaluate these additional points:
- Acceleration from a stop
- Visibility (check for blind spots)
- Engine noise
- Passing acceleration (does it downshift quickly and smoothly?)
- Hill climbing power
- Suspension (how does it ride?)
- Rattles and squeaks
- Cargo space
Take your time and be sure to simulate the conditions of your normal driving patterns. If you do a lot of highway driving, be sure to go on the highway and take the car up to 65 mph. If you go into the mountains, test the car on a steep slope. You don’t want to find out that the car does not perform as needed after you have nought it.
After the test-drive, ask the owner for the service records. See if the car has had the scheduled maintenance performed on time. Avoid buying a car that has been in a serious accident or has had major repairs such as transmission rebuilds, valve jobs or engine overhauls. If you like the way the car drives, you should still take it to a mechanic for a thorough inspection. A private party will probably allow you to do this without much resistance. However, in the dealership, the process might be more difficult. If it is a certified used car, there is no reason to take it to a mechanic.
Negotiating for a used car
Successful negotiation comes from having solid information. This is particularly true when buying a used car. Before the negotiation begins, you should look up for the price and print out the figures of the vehicle online. Dealers have lots of experience in negotiating, while most private parties do not. Therefore, buying a used car from a dealer or a private party will be two very different experiences. Follow these guidelines when negotiating:
- Only enter the negotiation with a salesperson who you feel comfortable with.
- Make an opening offer that is low, but keep it reasonable.
- Decide ahead of time how high you will go and leave when the limit is reached.
- Walk out – this is your strongest negotiation tool.
- Be patient – plan to spend an hour negotiating in a dealership, less for private parties.
- Do not be distracted by pitches for related items such as extended warranties or anti-theft devices.
- A “closer” (high pressure salesman) may try to improve the deal before you reach a final price.
- Never begin the negotiation if you feel hungry or tired.
Closing the deal
If you are at dealership, you still have to go through the finance and insurance (F&I) process. If you are buying a car from a car from a private party, you just have to make sure that the payment is made and the title are properly transferred.
Don’t forget, you also need to make sure you have insurance for the car before you drive it away. Also, the F&I person will probably try to sell you a number of additional items such as extended warranty, alarms or anti-theft devices, fabric protection, rust proofing, and emergency roadside kits. However, the other items typically sold in the F&I room are expensive and hold little value for you.
When you buy a car from a private party, you will probably be asked to pay with a cashier’s check or in cash. Always request the title (or the pink slip) and have it signed over to you. Rules governing vehicle registration and licensing vary from state to state. Once all of the paperwork is complete, it is time to relax and begin to enjoy your new purchase: a good used car.