5 Tips for Used Car Buying


Use These Tips to Avoid Getting Burned

Buying a used car can be overwhelming. It’s common to feel overwhelmed; to feel like you’re missing something, but not be able to figure out exactly what it is. But by following a few tips, you can make sure that the car you do choose is reliable and at a good price.

Set a Budget

Setting a budget is a big step. It will determine what kind of car you should be looking for, what kind of cars you should not even consider, and possibly even help you identify the best possible deal. The budget you set aside for this car should represent how much you value getting a replacement. You can get financing if need be, so don’t feel confined by just the amount of money on hand now.

If you have a specific make and model of car in mind that you’d like to keep an eye out, a good source to base your budget on is Kelley Blue Book. With their website you can narrow down exactly what you want and know what kind of price you should expect which can indicate whether the price you see for a car is overpriced, a good deal, or somewhere in between.

Fuel Efficiency Matters

Don’t underestimate fuel efficiency. If a car is slightly more expensive but has a better fuel mileage, that can make-up the difference in the two vehicles pretty quickly. Ask the owner of the car what they tend to get for mileage and compare it to what that make and model usually gets. A significant difference can indicate a mechanical problem.

Ask For an Inspection

This is an investment you’d have to make yourself, but by taking the vehicle to a qualified mechanic you have a better chance of identifying problems with the car, or problems that will be cropping up soon with it. Most mechanics are very familiar with service like this and have a set fee for taking a look. If the seller refuses to let you get the vehicle inspected, that should set-off huge red flags, especially if you were anticipating the vehicle being a very good deal.

Used car lots often offer vehicle inspection certificates that go with the cars on their lot, so it’s usually a good idea to ask if they have something like this. If they do, be sure to look for anything that stands-out on the certificate and compare the vehicle identification number on the certificate with the one on the vehicle, which you can view near the bottom of the windshield on the dash, usually on the drivers-side.

Ask About Returning the Vehicle if you Aren’t Satisfied

While asking about returns is a good idea for both private and public used car purchases, don’t get your hopes up with private seller sales. Most used lots, however, will offer some kind of return policy, though rarely for exactly what you paid for the vehicle. This is important to know because if you aren’t satisfied with the vehicle or find a mechanical problem, you don’t want to get stuck in a situation where you have to sell the vehicle to someone else. Being able to just take it back to the lot and get most of your money back is a much less stressful alternative.

Get Agreements in Writing

Getting financial agreements in writing from a used car lot shouldn’t be an issue, but in private sales be sure you are adamant about getting the deal in writing, including any special deals you have with the purchase such as payments to be made or return policy. Make sure both you and the seller sign it, and it’s usually a good idea to have two witnesses, one for each party, sign as well.

This agreement you will have a copy of will help should the person decide to change their mind on something like how much they want payments to be, how much in total they are selling the car for, and if they are selling the car ‘as is’ (i.e. with any mechanical faults whether disclosed or not). These situations come up more often than most people realize, so getting some documentation can mean keeping some extra money in your pocket.