Seven Tips for Buying a Used Car
Know the ins and outs before making a purchase
From trade-in deals to vehicle history, buying a used car can be a stressful and confusing process. Fortunately, however, there are plenty of experts and resources that offer tips for purchasing the perfect used vehicle. If you go to a dealership or seller knowing your priorities and what questions to ask, you'll walk away with the right car.
The editors at Kelley Blue Book provide several tips for buying used vehicles. They encourage drivers to consider the following advice:
- Take advantage of Internet tools. Websites such as Kelley Blue Book offer different types of car value calculators and comparison tools. When you're trying to figure out if you're getting a fair deal or have no idea what type of vehicle you're looking for, a calculator tool or used car search feature can come in handy.
- Get a history and safety report. Before making a purchase, write down the vehicle identification number (VIN), a 17-digit number often located at the top of the instrument panel or along the bottom of the windshield. The VIN lets you check the title and obtain a detailed vehicle history report on websites such as www.carfax.com. The report will give you a heads-up about any major issues including previous accidents, flood damage and odometer discrepancies. Also ask the seller for copies of the car's service records and have the vehicle inspected by a trustworthy, independent mechanic.
- Test drive. Conducting a thorough test drive is an important step in any car purchase; however, used vehicles often require drivers to pay even closer attention while taking the car for a spin. A used car could have experienced several years' worth of different drivers, so it's important to look for things such as seat comfort and support. Don't forget to focus on the basics - engine noise, steering vibration and brake sensitivity - as well.
- Consider an extended warranty. Many car dealerships offer extended warranties or service contracts that cover a variety of repairs and services. Think about the current condition of the vehicle, how long you plan to drive it and your auto insurance coverage in order to determine whether such warranties are worth the deductible. Both manufacturers and independent companies offer these extended warranties.
Auto resource website edmunds.com also has some useful tips for buying a used vehicle:
- Know how to negotiate. Many drivers opt for used vehicles in order to get a good deal, so understanding smart negotiation tactics is vital. First, decide ahead of time how much you're willing to pay, and stick to your limits. Make an opening offer that is low but in the ballpark. Remember to be patient and plan to spend up to an hour negotiating. Lastly, don't be distracted by pitches for extended warranties or antitheft devices.
- Compare, compare, compare. The value of a car is based on performance, condition, reliability and mileage - but also on popularity. Remember that you'll pay a premium for vehicles that are in high demand. Edmunds urges buyers to ask, "How much difference in price separates good-but-popular cars from their good-but-overlooked counterparts?"
- Determine the cost to own. Tools like Edmund's True Cost to Own(R) (TCO) will calculate any additional costs incurred after you make an initial vehicle purchase. Extra costs include depreciation, loan interest, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance and repairs. The system takes the year of the car into consideration as well as the make, model and style.
Knowing how to research, test drive and pay for a used vehicle can result in a great car for a great price. Do your homework, and you'll drive away a happy customer.