Your Guide to Buying a Used Car

Whether you’re looking for a second car for your family, a replacement for your current vehicle or something to get you back and forth to work, a used car may be a more affordable option than something brand new. Buying a used car, though, can be a tricky process. The following will offer a brief guide to get you started.

Know What You Can Afford

First, know what you can afford. Check over your finances, and decide how much wiggle room you have. Set a car-buying budget, and determine to stick to it. If you have some time before you need a car, you might save up for a while to give yourself a good cushion.

Understand Loan Options

You may also decide that you can better afford a car if you take out a loan and make payments over time. Talk to someone at your bank to see if you qualify, and learn about current auto loan requirements and rates. Make sure that you understand all the terms, including interest, payment schedules and late fees, before you sign any paperwork.

Decide What You Want

As you think more about purchasing a used car, you should determine what you want. Perhaps you need a small car with good gas mileage for your commute, or you may require a truck to do some hauling. Consider, too, how many miles you’re willing to accept on a used car and how many repairs you may be willing to make. Used cars come in all kinds of conditions, so you should have a pretty good idea of what you can handle.

Start the Search

When everything is in place with your finances and when you have decided what you want, you can start your search for your used car. Visit local dealerships first, and check out their supply of used cars. Purchasing from a dealership may give you access to warranties and service plans the you would not get if buying from a private party. You can also check ads online or in your local newspaper, but always be wary.

Inspect Carefully

In fact, you must inspect any prospective purchase very, very carefully. Always take the car for a test drive, and make sure that you have access to a vehicle history report. Ask about previous ownership and repair history, too, especially if there seem to be gaps in the report or if a report is lacking. When you go car shopping, bring along someone who is knowledgeable about cars and can do an inspection. If you’re dealing with a private party, you may request an inspection through a third party before you buy. Bring the car to a trusted mechanic for a thorough run-through.

Make a Good Deal

When you find a car that suits your needs, don’t hesitate to try to make a good deal, especially if there seems to be some room to dicker. Don’t go overboard and insult the seller, though. Your offers should be reasonable according to the car’s condition and mileage. Be careful, too, not to go over your budget. You may have to walk away if the seller cannot or will not come down into your price range. Sometimes if you’re firm about your own limits, the seller will decide to compromise. Other times, you may have to start up your search again. Be flexible but also practical.

Mind the Legalities

Finally, keep in mind the legalities of buying a used car. Most of these will be handled for you if you purchase through a dealership. If you buy from a private party, though, you will have to take care of taxes and a title transfer. Be sure to purchase proper license and insurance as well.

Buying a used car can be a tricky process. You will need to have your finances in order, know what you want, search well, inspect carefully, make a good deal and handle all the necessary legalities. But when you’re finished, you may end up with just the right car for what you need.

Author Image
Jerica Palmer