How to Get a Good Deal on a Used Car in 10 steps

Last Updated on January 24, 2021 by themechanic

When buying a second-hand car, you should be very attentive and careful. If you know how to organize the process, it will be stress-free and enjoyable. Below, you will find a step-by-step guide on how to purchase a used vehicle in a good condition and at a sensible price either from a dealership or a private seller.

Decide On Your Budget

Avoid spending all your savings on the purchase because you will need to pay for fuel and insurance. Be ready to invest in the car’s maintenance and repairs — even if your means of transport is in a good condition, you will need to take it to the service more frequently than a brand new one. If you are planning to take a loan, its sum should not exceed 20% of the vehicle’s value.

Compare the Prices

When buying a second-hand auto, you can choose between the following options:

  • Private resellers
  • Used car dealers
  • Used car section of new vehicle dealerships

Private resellers might offer the most lucrative prices yet they are not too credible. They can give you no guarantees regarding the quality of the car and sometimes also about the legitimacy of the deal. Dealers with a good reputation, on the contrary, are exceptionally trustworthy. When assessing their reliability, you can check independent ratings and people’s reviews on the Internet as well as ask your friends about their second-hand car purchase experience.

Compile of List of Target Cars

Select the brands that you like the most. The list should include only those cars that have proven to be long-lasting — such as Kia Optima, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry or Honda Accord.

If you aim to acquire a means of transport that is less than 5 years old, opt for a CPO one. This abbreviation stands for “certified pre-owned”. This means, the manufacturer initially provided the vehicle with a long-term warranty. You can find a CPO auto only in the dealership that sells this particular brand.

Locate Suitable Options in Your Area

Look through the ads and select, let’s say, all the used cars in Philadelphia or any other state. Mark them all on the map. Think of which ones you would like to see first: the ones that are located closer to you or those that you like the most? Plan your car inspection itinerary — but do not contact the owners yet.

Check the History Report

These contain crucially important data about the auto, including all the accidents it had. To access a report, you should normally use the VIN (vehicle identification number) — but in some databases, it is enough to insert the license plate number. Many dealers share history reports with the potential customers at no cost.

Get in Touch with the Owner

Before scheduling a meeting, ask them why they get rid of the car and which state it is in. Do not tell them that you have already checked the report. Maybe, the owner will tell you some facts that were not mentioned in the sales ad.

Try to inspect and test-drive the car in the daytime. Like this, it will be easier for you to assess its condition.

Test-Drive the Vehicle

You should focus primarily on the following aspects:

  • How easy is it for you to get inside and outside?
  • Is there enough space for your legs and head when you are behind the wheel?
  • Is there enough space for the passengers in the back seat?
  • Can you customize the position of the wheel and the driver’s seat?
  • Can the passenger adjust their seats?
  • Can you see the road and the surrounding area clearly enough through the mirrors? Are there any blind spots?
  • Do the brakes squeak?
  • Are the tires in good condition?
  • Can you feel any smells, such as gas or oil?

Make sure that the brake lights, headlights, turn indicators, engine light and air conditioning function properly. Pop the hood: there should be no steaming, leaking or oil spots.

Ask the dealer or vehicle owner to show you the service records. If the car was frequently taken to the service, that is a good sign.

Let an Independent Expert Examine the Vehicle

In case you have not established trust with a mechanic yet, choose any reputable shop in your area. The average price of prepurchase inspection is $150. A professional will promptly identify the faults you might have missed when examining the car yourself. When buying a CPO car, you can skip this step since it has already been inspected.

Negotiate the Price

Avoid telling the seller from the onset how much funds you have. Maybe, you will be able to secure a bargain. Discuss the average price for this type of car in your region. Back up your position with the facts and number you found online. Explain to the seller that you have done some research. Do not give up negotiating simply because the dialogue takes too much time!

Sign the Deal

When purchasing an auto from a private seller, you should ask them to properly transfer you the title and the registration. This needs to be done before your pay for the purchase. The exact rules of the procedure differ from one state to another.

The dealership representatives will offer you a contract that includes extra expenses: anti-theft devices, a prepaid service plan, a warranty and so on. Glance through the text attentively and decide whether you need these additions or would prefer to handle them independently. Plus, there will be fees: for the license, the fact of selling, the documentation and maybe a few others.

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Hopefully, this list of recommendations came in handy and your second-hand car purchase will be stress-free. Avoid haste and doublecheck every single letter of each document. It would be nice if a friend or family member could accompany you when you examine the vehicle. No matter if you buy from an individual seller or a dealer, you have a right to drive away only after you insure the car.

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