From car dealerships to online auto auctions, there’s no shortage of options for buying a used car these days. A used car can even get you the most value for your money when due diligence is put in, even in rising economies where new car purchases are more common. There is, of course, no way to avoid the fact that a used car will inherently have some wear on it and be significantly depreciated in value, but that doesn’t mean you should just dismiss the idea altogether. If you shop smart, you can get many years of use out of a used car at a fraction of the cost.
Control your budget
If you’re actively shopping for a used car, it’s probably safe to say that you’re on a budget of sorts already. The single most important piece of advice any prospective used car buyer can adhere to is to stay within your original set parameters, no matter how good a salesman can make a deal sound. Generally speaking, your monthly car payment should never exceed 20 percent of your total income, especially considering the unexpected costs that could be attached to buying a used car, such as replacing tires or other unforeseen maintenance. You may even want to line up financing in advance of a used car purchase to avoid the premiums of dealership rates.
Always prepare to negotiate
Sellers are generally going to be more willing to negotiate the price of a used car as opposed to a new one, and it’s always worthwhile to take advantage of this. Research a few models that best suit your needs and what they’re worth before going to a dealership. If you know the average market value for each model you’re interested in, you’ll be in a much stronger position to bring the price down when the time comes. A good general strategy is to make an offer slightly below the average and then haggle with the seller until you reach a suitable price.
Take the test drive
Even when buying a new car, there are plenty of reasons to take a test drive, and this is doubly true with a used car. No reputable seller should show any resistance to this, and there should be no appointment necessary.
If at all possible, you’ll want to check how the vehicle performs on both the highway and on side roads. Put it through its paces a bit, and thoroughly check the brakes and turning for responsiveness. You’ll also want to pay attention to any sounds that could indicate problems with tires or suspension.
The test drive is also a great opportunity to try features like the sound system and to learn about any unfamiliar technology, especially if you’re testing a model significantly newer than your current vehicle. Don’t be afraid to test drive multiple vehicles. Many people only test drive the car they end up buying, but it generally makes more sense to try a few models to get the best idea of what’s right for you.
Verify a history report
Once you’ve found a model you like, it may be tempting to believe every positive thing you hear about it, but you should always protect yourself from potential fraud. With so many free options available to perform history checks and accident reports, there’s really no reason not to do this.
It’s also a good idea to get any used car checked by a mechanic. As with the test drive, a reputable seller should have no issue with this, and used car inspections are readily available. Problems that can be easily spotted during this process include frame damage, hidden rust, and poor previous repairs just to name a few. Even if you have to cover this inspection yourself, it can save you from a much more costly mistake or from bigger problems down the road.