All You Need to Know When Buying a Used Car
Step 1: Crunch the numbers
How are you paying for your new car? If you’re paying cash, you already have a car budget in place. If you’re taking out an auto loan, your lender will determine how much you can afford. Also consider getting pre-approved for your loan before visiting the dealer’s lot. A great place to shop for a car loan is at your local credit union. For instance, Community Financial auto loans offer competitive rates, no application fees, and flexible terms.
Step 2: Create a target list
What make and model car do you want to buy? Check out Consumer Reports for reliability ratings on vehicles from the most recent model years. Aim to narrow your choices to three or four model cars.
Step 3: Research
Start researching prices and listings for your vehicles of choice. Visit our Auto Resource Center to get started. You can find used cars for sale in any of these locations:
- The used-car section of new-car dealerships
- Used-car dealerships
- Used-car retailers like CarMax.com
- Websites like Craigslist where car owners privately sell their vehicles
Step 4: Call the seller
Contact the seller to verify the information you’ve learned about each car. If you’re using a private-party seller, ask about any possible mechanical issues. If you’re working with a dealership, ask if the car is still in stock and for any information you couldn’t find on your own. If everything checks out, set up an appointment for a test drive.
Step 5: Test drive
Pay attention to these details during your test-drive:
- Is there sufficient legroom?
- Is the ride smooth?
- How is the acceleration?
- Does the “check engine” light stay on?
- Do you have full visibility?
- Are the brakes working well?
- Do all the lights work?
Step 6: Have it inspected
Having your car inspected by a mechanic can save you loads of aggravation and lots of money down the line.
Step 7: Negotiate
Make an opening offer based on the average price for your car and use all the information you’ve learned about your vehicle as bargaining chips. Be firm and you will end up with a fairly priced vehicle.
Step 8: Make it official
If you’re buying the car from a private-party seller, make sure the title and registration are officially transferred to you. Finally, read the contract carefully and make sure you have insurance before you drive off the lot. Now, you’re all set to take your new car for its first spin!
Your Turn: Have you recently bought a used car? Share your best tips with us in the comments!
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