Buying a Used Car
If you’re in the market for a deal on used wheels, follow the steps below for a smoother ride!
Step 1: Crunch the numbers
How are you paying for your new car? If you’re paying cash, you already have a car budget in place. If you’re taking out an auto loan, your lender will determine how much you can afford.
Also consider getting pre-approved for your loan before visiting the dealer’s lot. Visit the vehicle loans section of our website and we can help you with that!
Step 2: Create a target list
What make and model car do you want to buy? Check out Consumer Reports for reliability ratings on vehicles from the most recent model years. Aim to narrow your choices to three or four model cars.
Step 3: Research
Start researching prices and listings for your vehicles of choice. Visit a site like Cars.com to get started. You can find used cars for sale in any of these locations:
- The used-car section of new-car dealerships
- Used-car dealerships
- Used-car retailers like CarMax.com
- Websites like Craigslist where car owners privately sell their vehicles
When researching cars and listing prices, determine the average asking price for each car.
Next, find out all you can about each vehicle with a vehicle history report from Carfax.com.
Step 4: Call the seller
Contact the seller to verify the information you’ve learned about each car. If you’re using a private-party seller, ask about any possible mechanical issues. If you’re working with a dealership, ask if the car is still in stock and for any information you couldn't find on your own.
If everything checks out, set up an appointment for a test drive.
Step 5: Test drive
Pay attention to these details during your test-drive:
- Is there sufficient legroom?
- Is the ride smooth?
- How is the acceleration?
- Does the “check engine” light stay on?
- Do you have full visibility?
- Are the brakes working well?
- Do all the lights work?
Next, ask for the vehicle’s service records to determine if it’s current on scheduled maintenance.
Step 6: Have it inspected
Having your car inspected by a mechanic can save you loads of aggravation and lots of money down the line.
Step 7: Negotiate
Make an opening offer based on the average price for your car and use all the information you’ve learned about your vehicle as bargaining chips. Be firm and you will end up with a fairly priced vehicle.
Step 8: Make it official
If you’re buying your car off a private-party seller, make sure the title and registration are officially transferred to you. If buying from a dealer, give careful thought to any extra protection that may be offered and be sure to speak with us, as we can also help you pick the right loan and/or auto protection. Finally, read the contract carefully and make sure you have insurance before you drive off the lot.
Now, you’re all set to take your new car for its first spin!
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