How to Buy a Used Car

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When you’re in the market for a used car, there are many factors to take into consideration including personal preferences, safety standards, and the car’s owner history. If you’ve decided to take the plunge, then read on for our top tips on how to buy a used car.

What to Look for When You Buy a Used Car

Step 1: Decide what kind of vehicle fits your needs. There are a lot of variables when it comes to choosing the right car for you.
You should have a good idea of what you are looking for before you begin your used car search. Be sure to consider how long you plan on keeping the vehicle and what your life will look like during that duration of time.
Types of Cars and Specifications
Car Type Car Size Number of Seats Number of Doors Great For
Sports car Small 2 2 Individuals and couples
Sedan Small to medium 5 4 Individuals/couples/families
SUV Medium to large 5 to 8 4 Individuals/couples/families
Minivan Large 8 3 to 4 Families
Hatchback Medium 5 4 Families/on the go
Step 2: Estimate values and determine your budget. Once you’ve narrowed your focus, look at the values of the cars on your short list. You can use websites like Kelley Blue Book to determine a car’s value based on the make, model, year, condition, mileage, and features. Do your research ahead of time so that you don’t end up overpaying.
Set your budget and stick to it. There are often unforeseen costs when buying a car, such as maintenance issues, licensing, minor repairs, etc. It can be hard to know if the car needs something that the seller didn’t disclose, so a budget can help you be realistic about how much money you have on hand.
Step 3: Look locally and online. There are dozens of websites devoted to buying and selling used cars online, and you can easily become overwhelmed by the many choices. Plan to narrow your focus to a few quality websites, but also look for local newspaper listings and signs.
Step 4: Contact sellers. It’s a good idea to call or email sellers before making plans to meet up. Get as much information as possible to determine if the car is a good fit. Feel out the seller to get an idea of whether they are offering a good deal or have something to hide.
Step 5: Take a test drive. Once you know which cars you want to see, arrange a time to meet the seller for a test drive. Remember: safety first, and always meet in populated public places during the day.
On the test drive, pay attention to any strange noises or glitches in the operation of the vehicle. Drive on the highway so that you can monitor the car at higher speeds and make note of any red flags.
Step 6: Get a pre-purchase inspection. Not all issues are visible to the untrained eye, so a pre-purchase inspection will help you breathe easier when you are ready to make the choice to buy.
To get a pre-purchase inspection, you can get approval from the seller and make an appointment locally. Once you arrive for the appointment, the inspector will fully check the car and let you know the results.
If the appointment process sounds too daunting, you can go with an online company that will send someone directly to the seller. YourMechanic offers an inspection service tailored to buyers and sellers to make the process easier.
Step 7: Negotiate a price and drive away. The good thing about buying used cars is that the price is often negotiable. Be firm about any hesitations and upfront about your budget.
Once you’ve set a price, pay the seller in cash, get the title and bill of sale, and get on the road in your new ride.
If you’re shopping for a used car, you’ll also need insurance. Make sure you have coverage before you drive away, or your new purchase could wind up costing you way more than you anticipated.

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