Buying any car is a big decision. It takes a lot of preparation and information to know you’re making the right purchase. It also means making sure you choose the best options for your own finances. When it comes to a used car, you might say it takes even more concentration. You want to make sure you’re getting the best deal and making sure you’re not getting the wool pulled over your eyes. We’re going to take you through the comprehensive list of everything you need to know about buying a used car. From preparation to the sale itself and what comes afterward.
As with all big financial decisions, you need to make sure you have the money for the car you want. Depending on how you go about paying for it, getting a new car will change your financial situation for years into the future. You need to think about how much you’ll be able to pay in terms of insurance, gas and maintenance costs. Try using an affordability calculator to get an estimate of how much you can spend on a car. It’s the best way of making sure you get one you can actually keep.
There are a lot of different places you can begin your search for a used car. It’s a good idea to explore your area for any local auctions or private sellers. Independent sellers you meet can offer some of the best deals, but you need to be extra careful with them to make sure everything’s legit. Of course, there are plenty of listings for used cars on the web, as well. Take your time and you’re always likely to find a better deal.
Getting it on finance
There are a lot of different ways to go about getting a new car. If you want to buy it outright, you might not have the money to do so immediately. Most cars these days are bought on finance, which is the kind of financial responsibility we were talking about above. Besides making sure your finance fits into your budget, search with providers for the best possible deal. You might be able to get a better car you expected without spending too much more on it.
Buying vs. leasing
Leasing’s not too fundamentally different from buying. Except you’re paying for a portion of the car’s worth and getting it for a portion of the time. This is usually somewhere around three years. The big benefit is obviously that you’re paying less. Though places that offer extremely low payments usually have the hidden caveat that the down payment is a lot bigger. The obvious drawback is that you have to return it after a certain amount of time. You’re also obligated (even financially responsible) for the upkeep.
Buying to improve
A lot of people buy cars simply for the obvious reasons of getting them from A to B. However, it is an option that people take to buy a car for the sake of improving it. Not only can you get a cheaper car and use your own effort to make it much better than you previously got it. You can also treat a car like an investment. Cars depreciate over time, there’s no fighting that. However, with the right choice of car and right choice of improvements, you can slow that depreciation and make it valuable asset.
Researching the car
If you see a model you like the look of on sale, you need to start doing your research. Things like horsepower, durability and miles per gallon might not be immediately obvious. It’s not wise to rely entirely on the person selling for accurate information, either. Look up car reviews and visit enthusiast forums for the specific model you’re looking at. You might discover something to make you reconsider the purchase or confirm that it’s the one for you.
A lot of used car salesmen will use a declaration of certified pre-owned. It can make for an assuring sign on a purchase. It’s a sign that the car is in top condition with a clean title and work was put in to restore it. CPO vehicles tend to be more expensive than otherwise, since most of them have only been driven for two to three years. You can’t immediately trust this guarantee, either. There are some companies whose standards for assigning a CPO are a lot lower than others.
Knowing its history
If you’ve seen a car you want, now’s the time to really start scrutinising it. Any respectable salesman should welcome a closer look, so the first thing to do is find its history. A used vehicle check can tell you all kinds of official information about the car. It can save you from lots of nasty surprises like whether a car’s been marked as stolen or scrapped, rendering you in legal danger. As a rule, don’t feel guilty for not taking the seller’s word for it.
Of course, before you even to the history of the car or the rest of it, there are a few warning signs you should train yourself to immediately notice. For example, look at the wheels. If they’re not well maintained or mismatched, you’ll be able to tell quickly that not much effort has been put into maintaining the car. If there are any modifications or repairs on it that have you pausing for thought, it’s best to leave it aside, too.
Take for a test drive
Any dealer should be willing to let you take a test drive with them. If they don’t, don’t be afraid to walk away. Something obviously wasn’t right there. Taking it for a test drive can tell you all kinds of things under the surface of your potential purchase. Keep a mental (or physical) checklist of things to look out for on your drive. Take it somewhere you can go above 60 to make sure its performance lasts for the whole trip, as well.
A second opinion
If you’re still not entirely sure, you should definitely make sure to get a second opinion on the car. You might not have as much luck getting a salesperson to agree to having a used car inspection help you check things out. Make sure you use a trusted mechanic of your own choice, too, not someone too local or recommended by the seller. Combining their findings with your own can give you a whole new position on the car, from the price you should pay to whether you should get it at all.
Here’s where all that research you’ve done should come in handy. Thanks to your budgeting, you know how much you can pay for it. Thanks to that scrutiny earlier, you might have plenty of valid points to negotiate the price of the car downward. Make sure you know the standard market value of the car as well as the usual resell value given its age. If a dealer shifts down to your price, watch for the financing or add-ons they might try add at the end.
Making sure it’s all done and dusted
You might be driving away with the car and your money might be in their pocket, but you need to make sure a deal is finalised before you consider it well struck. You’re going to need the right bits of paperwork to rest easy. Besides a bill of sale, take a look at the different kinds of documentation that make a sale official. If you don’t have all of them yet, you might want to hold back on handing over any money.
Changing the fluids
After you buy a car, you’re going to want to make a more thorough inspection than you might have had the opportunity to. One thing you should make sure you do, however, is changing the different fluids in the car. We’re talking about engine oil, transmission, coolant, brake fluid and power steering fluid. You can’t be entirely too sure about when these fluids were last changed. It’s a good idea to just get it out of the way as soon as you can. Otherwise you might have a few problems further down the line.
Besides changing the fluid, you might want to immediately do your usual maintenance routine. Of course, these are the kinds of checks and changes you should be making once in a while anyway. If your car comes with a maintenance record that’s looking good, a quick inspection can tick some tasks of the list. If it doesn’t, it’s safest to assume the worst and do your usual routine. Of course, if you got a used car inspection, you might not need this step at all.
Buying a used car is all about being careful and prepared. Finding out information on your car may not make it a no-buy situation, but it can help you negotiate. Just keep a keen eye on every step of the way to make your decision more informed.