Buying a car is a stressful endeavor, especially if the car you’re buying is used. A used car can have many hidden issues, and while you might test drive it prior to purchase, and you definitely should, a short drive may not reveal issues you can’t see. For every used car you contemplate purchasing, there are some things you need to do and know before making a final deal.
On average, a car should be driven about 12,000 miles a year. As you look at the odometer, see if the number reflects this. If it doesn’t the car may have once been part of a corporate fleet or car rental company. The automobile has likely been well-maintained and will have maintenance records to reflect this. However, if it was drive over 50,000 miles per year, that’s a lot of life for the car that you likely can’t get back no matter how well the car was maintained.
Beware of vehicles that have had multiple owners. Even if the mileage is good, if there are no maintenance records, the car probably hasn’t been well-maintained. This could lead to engine issues.
If you’re going through a dealership, they should be able to provide an accident for you. You shouldn’t purchase from a dealer unless they can provide such a report; otherwise, they may be trying to hide something from you.
If you’re going through a private seller, you can get a free VIN report on the car. This report should list any accidents that required an insurance claim. Even a small fender bender can cause damage to the frame or wiring of a car. You should have it inspected before purchase if it has been in any accident, and steer clear if it has been in a major accident.
Dealership vs Private Seller
If you’re trying to decide whether to go through a dealership or private seller, that’s a tough decision. There are benefits to each.
Private sellers usually price their cars more affordably. This is because they don’t have the overhead a dealership has. They also may be more eager to sell, as they are in the market for a new car themselves.
Purchasing from a dealer gives you the opportunity to purchase a certified used car, or purchase an additional warranty from the dealership. Certified pre-owned cars are backed by the manufacturer and won’t cost you anything extra, while a warranty from the car dealership is going to increase your monthly payments if you’re financing, and the total cost of the vehicle.
Check the tire tread on each car you look at. While the tires aren’t going to have an impact on the condition of the car, if the tread is thin, that’s another investment you’re going to need to make immediately, and new tires aren’t cheap. Depending on the car, you could be paying several hundred dollars per tire.
You can check the tread by using a penny. Place it upside down in the groove of the tread. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, then the tires are in need of replacement. If the tires look great, or are even new, consider that an extra value in your purchase.
If you decide you want the car with poor tread life remaining, this gives you an opportunity to negotiate for a lower price. Know the value of the car so you can gauge if you’re getting a good deal or not.
Before you start looking at cars, have a budget and know how much you can afford. Will you be paying cash or will you need to borrow money? If you’re paying cash, set a limit on your available funds so you aren’t tempted to go over. If you’re financing, do the math and figure out how much you can afford to add to your budget.
Financing can be an affordable option if you use a private loan. Any financing offered through the dealership will usually have higher interest rates and fees than finding a lender on your own.
The year and mileage of the car will be factors in determining the interest rate. A newer car with fewer miles is a much less risky investment than one that is older or has higher miles. If the car breaks down, the buyer is more likely to default on the remainder of the loan. Sometimes you may damage to the vehicle so you will need insurance also.
Your credit score will also impact the financing you’re offered. Have a look at your credit score before going used car shopping. If you find any errors, have them corrected, and if there is anything you can improve, do it.
Shopping for a used car will yield better results if you are a knowledgeable buyer. Know what to look for and if something doesn’t look right, ask questions. Even a used car is a huge investment and your purchase could be devastating to your financial health if you choose the wrong car. Choosing the right car could also be the wisest decision you make this year.