Important Tips for Buying Your Used Vehicle

Buying a pre-owned vehicle can be a daunting experience.  There are so many important things to take into consideration.  Unfortunately, many people undertake this endeavor without researching the issues that could  assist them in purchasing a sound and wise investment. This is a guide to help and advise you as you start the process of buying a used car.  

The first thing to do when considering the purchase of a used vehicle is to ask yourself the practical question, “Which car is the right car for me?”   There are many things to consider when making this important decision.  Your finances and budget should be one of the biggest determining factors. If you plan on taking out a loan, your car payment should not be more than 20 percent of your take-home pay. Be sure to account for other costs such as insurance, gas, and maintenance costs.  If the car you’re planning to buy is out of warranty, it might be a good idea to set aside a “just-in-case” fund to cover any unexpected repairs.

The choice of purchasing a used vehicle is an excellent financial decision for many reasons. A new car depreciates immediately after driving off the lot and it loses 30% of its original value in the first two years. Cars lose their value so fast that you are saving thousands of dollars by buying the same car that’s only 2 or 3 years older. Most cars don’t change very much from year to year and you can get a lot more for your money if you purchase a used vehicle with low mileage. You could essentially buy a 3 year old car every 3 years and still be far better off than buying a brand new car every 6 years! Used cars are also cheaper than new ones and will also save you money on insurance.  

When choosing your used car, an important question would be, “What is your car going to be used for?” If you have a family you need to consider the practicalities of space and number of seats available.  If you plan on using it for business, make sure it will accommodate your daily work needs.  Another consideration would be travel and commuting time and the amount of gas mileage it will use.  Maybe you will be using it for sports and utility.   Can it hold a rack for bikes or does it have 4 wheel drive for off road terrain?  You may want a car for the pure pleasure of leisure and comfort.  This practical question will help determine the type of car you will need.  

Another factor would be your personality, lifestyle, and design style.  Maybe you are concerned for the environment and a hybrid would best suit your lifestyle.  Possibly, you are the outdoor enthusiast that will need a sports rack for skiing, bike riding, surfing.  You may be a mom that will be using the vehicle to transport kids to and from school and events.  Or you may desire comfort, luxury and the prestige of owning a car that is designed with luxury in mind.  Perhaps you like the thrill of driving and want a vehicle that lends itself to speed and agility, such as a sports car. Even the color of the car is something that reflects your own individual style. These are all preferences and decisions that differ with each person and lifestyle.  

There are so many different makes and models to choose from and it is important to figure out what car best suits you as a person. An excellent way to make this important decision is to make a list of your needs and wants.  Research the models and styles of cars and determine which vehicles would best fit all the needs that you are looking for.  It is best to make this decision before visiting the dealerships so that you can focus on what car best fits your lifestyle and also what will be practically affordable as well.  It is easy to make emotional decisions vs rational when you are looking for a vehicle.  Getting another person’s input and advice, can also help in making this very important decision.

After you have narrowed down your choices and your price point you are ready for the next step in purchasing your used car.  There are many important things to consider when you start the process of buying your used vehicle.  You can research prices in Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds pricing and also read and research your vehicle online.  When you are ready to purchase, make sure the seller or used car dealership is someone you can trust and has integrity.  If you are purchasing from a used car dealership be sure that the vehicle has been thoroughly inspected, and do your own initial inspection and test drive. Also, make sure the dealership offers a warranty or guarantee on the vehicle.  You will be better equipped to make an informed decision at a dealership after you have done the research prior to making the purchase.

When you find a car that interests you make an initial inspection.  Look underneath the car for rust and make sure it is structurally sound.  Check the tires and wheels for uneven tire wear which could mean the car’s wheels or suspension is out of alignment. Inspect the exterior paint job and look for defects that could indicate damage. Check the interior for wear and tear and also the odometer for mileage.  It would not make sense for a car with low mileage to have a lot of wear and tear.  Look under the hood for new spark plugs as this could be a sign of a well maintained vehicle.  There are many signs you can look for as you do your own initial inspection.  

Next step would be to take the car for a test drive.  Make sure to drive the car cold becase a cold engine will tell you a lot more than a warm one. When you turn the key does it make funny noises and does it start easily?  Check all the controls, such as wipers, lights, radio, and AC.  Take it for a drive on different kinds of streets, roads, and highways.  Listen to the transmission for any loud noises or hesitation when switching gears.  Check the brakes for firmness when you press down on them. Take your hands off the wheel for a moment to see if it pulls in one direction which could mean it is out of alignment.  Feel for bumps on the road which will tell you if the shocks are worn. Also make sure that you fit well in the driver’s seat  and that you can see in all your mirrors and you feel comfortable and safe driving it.

If all these things align themselves with your list of wants and needs then make the next step of purchasing your car.  Negotiate the price and terms of the agreement.  Discuss the guarantee or warranty of the vehicle.  Decide on whether you are trading in a car, purchasing with cash, or putting down a down payment and financing it.  Be sure that the sale’s person is not pressuring you and is providing you with excellent customer service and helping with all your concerns and needs.  If you feel comfortable with your decision, after doing all your research and inspection, then move forward in purchasing your new pre-owned vehicle and enjoy the ride.


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