If you’ve been searching for the perfect “new-to-you” used car and made your way through Your Guide To Buying A Used Car, Part 1, by now you probably have a short list of about three or four cars that you could picture yourself driving. Before you pick one and trade your cash for the keys, there are a few more careful steps you should take to make sure you get a good deal on a great car.
Read Reviews For The Make, Model, And Year Of Each Car On Your List
The Internet is an incredible resource for opinions and reviews. Use this tool to your advantage by searching for pertinent information about each car on your list. All you’ve got to do is Google the words, “Used Car Reviews” and keep an open mind. For example, when you hover your cursor over “Car Reviews” on Edmunds.com and select “Read and Write Consumer Reviews” you will find out what tons of other drivers have experienced with cars you’re considering – and these folks will definitely tell you what they really think. You can also enter the makes and models on their “Car Reviews and Road Tests” page to read expert opinions. You can try out Car Gurus, or sign up for Consumer Reports, as well. The info and opinions are truly endless. Once you’ve satisfied your curiosity about each car on your list, choose the one that’s best for you.
Does It Fit Into Your Finances?
Now that you’ve made an educated selection, think back to the decisions you made in regards to your finances. Does this fit with your car-buying plan? Can you shell out the entire price of the car or afford to make the payments? If not, you might need to go back to the drawing board, making your finances more of a priority in your research. If you are comfortable with the purchase, go one step further and consider the car’s “total cost of ownership.” This includes costs associated with auto insurance, taxes, fuel, repairs and so on. Edmunds has a neat tool on their website where you can enter the make, model, year, and style of the car you’re looking at and they will tell you an estimated total cost to drive that car for 5 years on a 15,000 mile/year average.
What Is The Car’s History Like?
It’s extremely important to know what this car has been through in the past. How many people have owned it? How did they care for it? If you find a car with a branded, salvage or reconstructed title, this means the vehicle was damaged beyond 75% of it’s original value and may or may not have been repaired entirely. While this usually brings the price of the car way down, it almost always also means there will forever be problems with it. It’s a good general rule to only consider vehicles with clear titles. Find out from the seller as much information as you can about what repairs have been made to the car, what the previous owner’s driving conditions were like, and what service may need to be done soon. A dealer will generally have this type of info on hand for you, but a private seller may not. In this case, get the car’s VIN or license plate number and look up the Vehicle History Report.
Take It For A Spin
The test drive is one of the most important aspects of the car buying process. Most people like to get a feel for the acceleration, braking, and handling before they sign their name on the dotted line. When you get behind the wheel of your potential new car, take it through the paces you would normally put your car through on a day-to day basis. If you take the highway to work every day, make sure take the car up to 60 mph and see how it runs. Likewise, if you live in a rural area make sure it can handle a gravel road and a pothole or two. This is also the time to inspect the vehicle for dents and other body damage. Here are a few other test drive tips:
- Keep the radio off and listen to the engine. Pay special attention to noises when you run the AC, make sharp corners and drive over speed bumps.
- Take your time and drive for 10 miles or more to make your assessment. If you’re seriously considering this car, don’t let the seller pressure you into a shorter trip.
- Take notes and rate things like the ride, noise, steering, tires, interior comfort, brakes, and bodywork.
For an extensive inspection checklist, read a few of these tips from Edmunds.
Unless the vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned by the manufacturer, it is in your best interest to have a professional auto mechanic inspect the engine. Bring it by Grease Monkey and we’ll give you our honest opinion about the vehicle’s condition.
Negotiate The Best Deal
If you’re shooting for a rock-bottom price, start by getting price quotes from at least three local dealers. Internet sales people will often volunteer low prices in hopes of a quick sale. Go back to each dealer with the lowest price you were quoted and say, “I’ve been offered this price on this car. If you can beat it, I’ll buy the car from you.” I can almost guarantee you that they will give you a better price. However, you won’t get away with this trick forever. Soon enough, they’ll give you a “take-it-or-leave-it” price.
Private sellers are expecting to be talked down from their starting price, so don’t hesitate to suggest a lower price than they’re asking for. However, if you get the car for a lot less than they wanted for it, they may be less likely to want to help you if something should go wrong after you drive away with it.
Sign and Drive
When you buy a car at a dealership, you’ll most likely sign the paperwork in the finance office. At this point, the salesperson will probably try to sell you extra stuff like extended warranties, upgrades, and protections. It’s best to avoid being talked into these things since they are generally overpriced and can often be purchased elsewhere for less.
Be absolutely certain that the numbers on your contract match the terms you were given in negotiations and that there aren’t any additional fees. Don’t be in any hurry. Buying a car is serious business, so it’s important to remember that once you sign the contract, the vehicle is yours.
There is only one more thing to do now: Enjoy your new car.