Nine times out of ten, people decide to buy a used car rather than a new car because of budget restrictions. But, there can be other ideas at play when people make this choice. Some people just don’t believe in buying new cars because of the instant depreciation. They’ll say, “The second you drive that thing off the lot you’ll lose thousands of dollars!” Lots of drivers look at cars, not as a status symbol or thrill ride, but as a simple A-to-B and can’t understand why anyone would spend more than $5,000 on a set of wheels. And then there are the collectors, who won’t buy anything unless it’s at least 40 years old.
Only you can decide if a used car is best for you and your family. But whatever your reason, if you’re shopping for a used car you’re probably going to need some help.
Needs vs. Wants
When considering what type of vehicle you want, think about your requirements as a driver. Do you have a long commute to work? Look for something that gets great gas mileage. Has your family outgrown your compact car? Consider a full size sedan or minivan. If you have off-road aspirations, you’ll definitely want to be in the market for something with 4-wheel drive, like a truck or SUV.
In addition to deciding what kind of vehicle you need, create a list of options you can’t live without. These might include features like an automatic transmission, power steering, good gas mileage or storage capabilities. It can also be helpful to write a second list of options that would be cool to have, but that aren’t necessarily a deal breaker, like the paint color, upholstery (leather, cloth, or vinyl), a sunroof or cruise control.
What’s Your Budget?
Some buyers rely on financing while others are able to purchase a car outright. If you’re hoping to make monthly payments, assess your cash flow and decide on the amount you’re comfortable with. Otherwise, see how much you can afford to spend all at once. Buying from a private seller can save you some cash as opposed to going through a dealer, but private sellers don’t usually offer any kind of payment plan. In that case, you can always set up your own financing through your bank or credit union.
If you’ve saved up enough dough to cover the price range of the make and model in your sights, make sure you factor in the expenses that often surprise people, such as title transfer, registration, and DEQ certification fees. Your insurance rates might also be affected, so check with your agent or hop online to get a quote. If you’ve got your eyes on an older car, set up a special fund for the cost of possible repairs.
Put Out Your Feelers
Now’s the time when you poll your family and friends to find out which vehicles they’ve had experience with in the past. While their advice may be purely anecdotal, it might help you decide which make or model might be best for you.
As you open your mind to the idea of buying a used car, you’ll start noticing cars on the street that you may have overlooked before. Make a few mental notes about which makes, models and years catch your eye.
Open up the classifieds and auto trade magazines to see what the market is like. The Internet can be a wildly useful tool as well. Just type “used car” into Google and the results you’ll see (both local and national) will offer cars for sale, reviews of cars and dealers, and other articles to help you make smart buying decisions. Craigslist is also an extremely valuable, local online resource, and it’s where most private sellers will list thier vehicles for sale.
Take the time to a look at the general types of used vehicles that are out there. Learn what options are available on what models, and what type of vehicles you can afford. This may be a tedious process, but you’ll do yourself a favor by investing some time and being able to make an informed decision.
As soon as you have a short list of cars you’re interested in, it’s time for some serious research. We’ll guide you through that in our next post, so stay tuned!