Are you in the market for a used car and don’t know where to begin? You are not alone. When it comes to private and dealership sales, about 40 million used cars transfer owners every year. With unlimited buying options, finding the perfect used car can be tough. This month on the blog we’re dishing 8 steps to sealing the deal on a car that’s right for you.
1. What can you afford?
First and foremost, figure out an amount of money that won’t break the bank. The general rule of thumb is to take out a car loan that allows a monthly payment of no more than one-fifth of your monthly wages.
2. Create a list of potential cars.
Hondas and Toyotas are known for making great used vehicles, but with their reputations come higher prices. Make a list of three-5 cars that meet your needs and lay within your budget, and try to branch out.
3. Price check.
Prices vary depending on where you look. Private-party sellers almost always have the lowest prices, but they require you do a little more digging and research. Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, or CPO cars, usually cost more, but come with added warranties and dealership perks. Both have pros and cons.
4. Check the history report.
AutoCheck and Carfax are known for this. This is an important early step in the purchasing process. Trust us when we say that you really want to know if a vehicle has a bad history. The more and the sooner you know, the better.
5. Contact the seller.
Once you’ve found a potential buy, contact the seller directly. This will confirm that the vehicle is really for sale and that you’re getting the deal you may have seen in the ad. They may even offer you a better deal to ensure they keep your business. If what they tell you over the phone sounds good, then make the trip to the vehicle.
6. Test-drive and inspect.
Test driving your potential vehicle is the absolute best way to know if the car is right for you. A solid test drive will also help you to evaluate the condition of the car. Do you have enough room? Are the seat comfortable? Are there any dashboard warning lights illuminated? Do you smell anything unusual — oil? Gas? Do the breaks squeak? Does the a/c blow cold? Does the heater blow hot? We even suggest bringing a trusted mechanic friend along with you to help inspect the car. When you contact the seller, ask what their policy is on independent inspections. Some places may charge you for this, but we believe that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
7. Talk numbers.
Negotiating a price that works for you shouldn’t be an intimidating or dreadful experience. If your request is reasonable, chances are you’ll be out of there in no time at all. Remember, you have the upper hand when it comes to buying. Decide ahead of time how much you’re able and willing to spend and stick to your guns.
8. Cross the T’s and dot the I’s.
Once you decide on your vehicle and the inspection checks out, it’s time to get the paperwork done. Dealerships will offer you extended warranties that you may want to consider. Be sure to do the research on your potential vehicle, the more you know the more prepared you will be to make those decisions on the spot. If purchasing from a dealership, you will most likely have to pay additional document fees, sales tax and licensing fees. Private sellers will need to properly transfer the title, also known as the “pink slip”, and registration to you. It’s in your best interest to have the vehicle checked by the local DMV for any past-due registration fees. No body wants a new (used) car that carries old debt.
One the paperwork is complete, you’re done! Congratulations on your new purchase. We hope these steps are helpful and that you find them useful if ever in search of a used car. When it comes to all things cars, we’re here for you!