You’re in the market for a used car, but you don’t know what to expect. Prices are all over the place and if you haven’t bought a car in a while, you’ll likely experience sticker shock, even for a used vehicle. Before you shop, keep the following in mind.
Point No. 1: How much can you afford for a used car? You should know that a used car in decent condition will most likely cost you at least $5,000. That’s a lot of money! If your budget is considerably lower than that, then expect to find vehicles that are at least 10 years old and perhaps not in the best condition. If you’re handy with car repairs, then the problems may not bother you.
Point No. 2: Decide what type of vehicle you want. Are you shopping for a coupe or a sedan? Are you considering an SUV or a van? Do you want a sports car or some other type of vehicle? Is there a make or model that interests you? Narrowing your parameters first will make your search easier. Identify the vehicle body style that is right for you and then shop accordingly.
Point No. 3: Consider your purchase options. When buying used, you can shop a car dealer or purchase from a private party. Both options have advantages and disadvantages. Buying a car from a dealer will cost you more, but you should also get a warranty. Buying privately will save you money, but the lack of a warranty means you’re on your own. In any case, it is good to check a site such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.com to get pricing information. From there, you’ll have a framework from which to negotiate. And by all means, negotiate!</a>
Point No. 4: How will you pay for it? If you have enough cash to buy a used car, then you’re in great shape. If not, how will you pay for it? Used car financing is possible, but rates are higher than for new cars. You’ll also pay a higher interest rate if your credit is only satisfactory or poor. The more money you can put down, the lower your monthly payments too. Also consider what a car will cost you in property taxes, the registration fee, insurance, gasoline, and maintenance. Know your full costs going in and you won’t be surprised later.
Point No. 5: Inspect the car carefully. You’ve found a car, SUV, van, or truck that interests you. Now for the hard part: determining whether it is in decent condition. A thorough check from bumper to bumper and from top to bottom is essential. This means lifting the hood and checking wires, belts, hoses, and fluids. It also means crawling under the car to examine the suspension system, brakes, calipers, and exhaust system. Check the tires too — look for signs of uneven wear and aging. Obtain a car history report too from a service such as AutoCheck.
Point No. 6: Have a mechanic inspect the car. Unless you do a stellar job of checking a car yourself, you may want to hire a mechanic to do the check for you. Typically, you’ll pay upwards of $100 for an inspection. But that review can pay for itself quickly, alerting you to potential problems or avoiding a money pit altogether. Regardless, a second set of eyes may see something that you might miss.
Used Car Considerations
Carefully shop for a used car and you won’t regret your purchase. Make a sound buying decision and you may get several years out of your car, provided you follow the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual and address pressing problems immediately.
See Also — 8 Reasons to Avoid a Particular Used Car
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