It’s Easier Than You Think!
Don’t let a sense of dread wash over you when you leave your home to go shop for a used car.
It can be an unpleasant experience, to be sure. But if you head to a used car dealership armed with confidence and knowledge, you are less likely to leave disappointed.
Follow these tips for how to find the perfect used car for you, in your budget. Research What’s Available
You don’t know all your options until you’ve looked into them. Your first step in shopping for the perfect used car is to search the Internet. Try the search term “used cars near me” to start. The search results should provide you with used car dealerships and websites that house listings for private sellers.
Use the search results to get an idea of the makes and models available in your area, as well as how much you would expect to pay for them. This is how you’ll set your finalized budget, after considering what you can afford to purchase based on your income and financial obligations. You should also look into fair vehicle pricing on a website like Kelley Blue Book.
Now that you know what you may be able to afford, research reliability ratings, crash test ratings, and owner testimonials for each make and model you’re considering. What you find out should guide your purchase and narrow down your options even further.
Scour Used Car Listings
Now that you have just a couple of used car models in mind, read through sale listings of those for sale in your area. For those that seem to be in your budget, that are priced fairly, you should dig even deeper for more information on them.
You’ll want to check to see if the vehicle has any outstanding recalls from the manufacturer and review a vehicle history report.
Recalls can be completed at no cost to you before purchase, so as long as the seller agrees to do so, you are in good shape. You can read more about recalls at nhtsa.gov/recalls. NHTSA is the acronym for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A vehicle history report will show you whether the vehicle has sustained any body damage, has had mechanical failures, and even will detail the car’s maintenance history, to an extent. This will give you a good idea of whether the vehicle is structurally and mechanically sound, and whether it was well cared-for during its lifetime. Reputable sellers will furnish this report for you, or you can look it up yourself.
Look at Safety Ratings
Remember the NHTSA and their safety recall information? You can actually glean a lot more information from their website.
The NHTSA furnishes crash test ratings for nearly every make and model of car available for sale, and is a great resource for car buyers. The crash test results on their site can help you narrow down your options further, if you want to make sure the car you’re buying earned top safety ratings.
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Let Your Mechanic Inspect It
If you think you’ve found the perfect car for you, and you enjoyed the test drive (which you should never skip!), take the used car you’re considering to your mechanic or a friend or family member’s trusted mechanic for a pre-sale inspection.
The mechanic will take a look at the major systems of the vehicle and let you know if they spotted anything unusual. This quick exam is a surefire way to help prevent yourself from buying a lemon.
Avoid any seller or car dealership that doesn’t want you to let your mechanic look over a vehicle. That’s a huge red flag that they’re hiding something from you.
Carefully Read The Sales Contract
Even if you’ve fallen head-over-heels for a used car, the deal can fall through if the sales contract isn’t correct.
If you buy from a dealership, you’ll need to sign a purchase contract before you get your keys. This contract outlines every term in the deal, including the price of the car, your financing, any freebies or extras the dealer throws in for you, and whether your vehicle comes with a warranty.
It is your job to read through the entire contract to ensure it is accurate, and to ask the salesperson to make any corrections. If corrections are necessary, both you and the salesperson will need to initial next to each place where a correction was written in. You also should ask the salesperson to cross out any areas that are blank or fill-in missing details, and initial those, too.
If you don’t understand parts of the contract, be sure to ask lots of questions. You should take your time; call a family member or friend to help you understand what you’re signing, if you need to.
Basically, every part of the purchase deal should be in writing in the contract, including any warranties you were promised.
You should never leave the dealership with the vehicle until the contract is signed, and a copy is in your hands.
Whether you’re looking at used cars in Kansas City, or in Des Moines, Miami, or San Francisco, you should prepare the same way so that you set yourself up for success when it’s time to shop for a used car.
Be patient and assertive, and you’ll soon have a set of keys in your hands to a new-to-you ride that you’ll be proud to own and drive.