All You Need to Know When Buying a Used Car

Authored By: Community Financial Credit Union on 10/23/2018
Scared to buy a used car? If you’re shopping for an amazing deal on wheels during the October car-shopping season, you want to be that buyer who walks away thrilled with their new purchase. Follow the 8 steps below for a smoother ride!

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 
  • Websites like Craigslist where car owners privately sell their vehicles 
Determine the average asking price for each car. Next, find out all you can about each vehicle with a vehicle history report from

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? 
Next, ask for the vehicle’s service records to determine if it’s current on scheduled maintenance.

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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