Tips for Used Car Shopping

Leading consumer magazines advise those looking to save money over the long run to buy a “new,” used vehicle. Aside from saving money on the initial cost, used car owners also can save money on car insurance as slightly older cars tend to cost less to insure than brand new vehicles. If you have never bought a used car and only have images of sleazy salesmen in checkered jackets trying to rip you off, there are ways you can properly prepare for the used car buying process.

  1. Start off the process like you would for buying a new car and do your homework. Decide on the type of car you are looking for, research safety ratings, independent consumer group reviews and ask owners of the vehicles you are interested in how they like them. If you find nothing but positive feedback regarding the reliability of the vehicle that has piqued your interest, you can then take more proactive measures.
  2. Decide if you want to purchase from a dealer or directly from an owner. It will probably be cheaper to buy through the previous owner because there is more risk involved. If however, you want to lower the chance of risk, buying through a dealer is a safe bet especially if you purchase a certified pre-owned vehicle. They typically have better manufacturer warranties than if you bought new, because car makers often want to stand behind the quality of their older vehicles. Once you have decided, conduct a search about them on the web to see if any negative information surfaces.
  3. Regardless of who you want to purchase the car from, make sure to take it to a reputable mechanic for an honest opinion of the system. Many car buyers skip this step to save money and then later regret it as the car is in worse shape than initially anticipated. A car inspection typically costs $50, and you can even take it into a dealership where they have the same cars. Most used car purchases are “as is,” meaning that unless otherwise clearly stated in the sales contract, you are buying the car and will not have a legal chance to return it even if you have to sink thousands of extra dollars into an unexpected repair.
  4. You should also check the history of the car with a service such as CarFax. All you need to do is secure the vehicle VIN number and with that information you will be alerted if the car was involved in any major collisions or suffered any other major damage that has since been repaired. You can also request the service records from a dealer if they originally sold the car to the first owner.

And remember, just because a car has a clean vehicle history report does not mean it is 100% cleared for you to buy. Don’t skip any steps and be as thorough as possible. By conducting good research, taking your time, securing your auto loan financing prior to visiting the dealer, you can have a successful used car buying experience.