If you’re looking to buy a used car, to save money or just cuz you prefer, you’re far from alone. Between private-party and dealership sales, nearly 40 million used vehicles change hands each year.
Buying a used car can be a bit treacherous if you don’t know what to look for and how to shop for them. The 7 tips below are here to help you find your next quality used car.
- The best time to buy a used car. – The best time to buy if you’re shopping at a dealership is at the end of March, June, September or December. Dealerships often give bonuses based on quarterly sales, so a salesperson’s motivation and freedom to negotiate will be higher at this time.
- Know what features you most need in a car. Don’t start your search without deciding your criteria first. For example, ask yourself the following: 1) Do I need a family vehicle? Should I get a hybrid? Do I want a sporty looking vehicle or a sedan? Will this car be used for towing, or transporting large loads? Should I get 4-wheel drive? Do I want an automatic or manual transmission? Think about what is most important to you so you can narrow down your search from the get-go.
- Determine your budget. Will you pay cash or take out a loan? If you’re paying cash, figuring out your budget is fairly straightforward. Just don’t spend all your savings. You’ll need some for registration and insurance too. If you’re planning on taking out a loan, as a rule of thumb, your car payment shouldn’t exceed 20% of your take-home pay. Remember too that you will need money for fuel, future repairs, and auto insurance all of which are affected by the type of car you’re driving. Insurance companies, for example, charge more for certain models.
- Check and compare prices. Don’t limit yourself to one type of seller. Look at dealerships, independent car lots, used car lots and private sellers and compare their prices. Also, use a pricing guide such as Kelley Blue Book, to determine the model’s market value.
- Get a vehicle history report. Vehicle history reports can tell you if a car’s mileage has been rolled back, if it was in an accident, and in general if it has a bad history. You can order these reports from different services just by supplying the vehicle identification number (VIN). And if possible, ask the owner of the car for its maintenance record so you can see the maintenance schedule that was followed.
- Test drive the car. Test driving the car is critical to discovering whether the car is right for you. If the owner won’t let you take it for a test drive, walk away. Test drives let you better assess a car’s condition, how it handles, if it’s comfortable, whether anything is broken, etc.
- Have the car inspected. It’s worth it to pay a mechanic to inspect a car before you buy one. A mechanic can alert you to potential problems you might not discover yourself. Expect to pay between $100-$200 for an inspection.