A Guide For Buying a Used Car
There are a lot of benefits to buying a car used. The price savings is a big plus—you can get a nicer car used than you might be able to afford new. Taxes and insurance on a used car are also lower. With cars built so well these days and the internet to guide your search, you are sure to find a great deal on a used car with plenty of life left in it.
But how do you find a good vehicle, and what is the best way to buy a used car? Whether you are headed to the dealership or wondering how to buy a used car from a private party, such as a neighbor or internet seller, this guide will walk you through buying a pre-owned car.
How to Find a Used Car
The first step in your search for a great used car is to set your budget. How much can you spend out of pocket, or how high of a monthly car payment can you afford? A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 20 percent of your monthly paycheck on a car payment.
Next, you need to decide what kind of vehicle you want to purchase. Which makes and models are you interested in? If you aren’t sure, at least determine what kind of vehicle: sedan, SUV, truck, luxury car, etc. Once you have a budget in mind and have an idea of what kind of car you would like to buy, you need to know where to look, and what to look for in a used car.
Places to Look
The internet has expanded your opportunities for locating the used car of your dreams—hopefully at the pricepoint of your dreams. Search through these sources:
Classifieds website or social media marketplace. These resources are best for people who have a good amount of car knowledge and can easily spot a good deal, or for people who are willing to put in the time to research interesting car listings.
Car-buying websites. Sites like AutoTrader and AutoList compile listings and connect car buyers and sellers.
Newspaper classified ads. If you aren’t finding what you want online, it might be time to go old school.
Used car lots and car dealerships. These are a great option if you need financing, want some help deciding what car is best for you, or prefer to test drive a few different cars.
What to Look For
Once you’ve found a few cars you are interested in, evaluate each option based on the following factors:
Price: Look up the car’s make, model, and year in a pricing guide. Kelley Blue Book is a great resource for pricing a used car.
Mileage: What kind of mileage is on the car? Typical use puts about 12,000 miles on the car each year.
Vehicle history report: With the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), you can get a detailed report of the car’s history from AutoCheck or Carfax. This will reveal if the car has been in any accidents, how many times it has changed hands, and what maintenance it has had.
Test drive: Take any car you are seriously considering out for a spin before committing. Check the visibility, how the brakes are working, the steering, and power. Does the seat feel comfortable and supportive? Do you hear any strange (or annoying) sounds?
How to Buy a Used Car
After you’ve decided on a used car you would like to purchase, follow these steps to seal the deal and drive the car home.
Negotiate a price. You should have a good idea of what the car is worth. If the seller is asking more than the market average, point out why you think the price should be lower—it needs new tires, it has a higher-than-average mileage, the Kelley Blue Book value is lower—and suggest a fair price. Private parties tend to be easier to negotiate with than dealers.
Finalize the sale. Once you’ve agreed on a price, the next step is to pay for the car, usually with cash or a cashier’s check. Next, take ownership: add the car to your insurance policy, and get and sign the car’s title. In most states, you have 10 days after a sale to register the car in your name.
Inspect the car. Take any car you are serious about to a mechanic for an inspection, which will probably cost about $100. This inspection should catch any major issues, and the mechanic can give you an impartial and honest opinion on the condition of the car. If the car is a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle, there’s no need to take it in—CPO cars have already been inspected and come with a warranty.
How to Buy a Used Car from a Private Party
When you buy a car from an individual, make sure the seller signs the title correctly. It is up to you to make sure everything is done right, so check your state’s car registry rules and processes online. If there is still a loan on the car, call the lender to find out how to finalize the purchase. Keep in mind that if there are any problems with the car, the seller has no responsibility once the car is in your name.
How to Buy a Used Car from a Dealer
When buying from a dealership, be prepared to be offered additional loans, products, and services. The dealer may offer you a warranty, but before purchasing one, check to see if the car is still under warranty from the manufacturer. Before signing the contract, review it carefully and make sure you understand and agree to everything. Challenge any extra fees you don’t understand. They can register the car for you on the spot.
Congratulations! After you’ve followed these steps for how to buy a used car and signed on the dotted line, your new-to-you car is all yours. Once you’ve purchased your dream used car, bring it by Wade Auto to spiff it up with new parts and accessories.