Buying a used car is no less of an investment than purchasing a new vehicle. You need to do your due diligence and find the used car that’s perfect for you. That means getting a dependable vehicle at a fair price.
That doesn’t mean you can’t save a few bucks on your next used car. Here are ten ways to do just that (and they don’t all revolve around an asking price):
- Set your budget. If you don’t know how much you have to spend on a used car, you’re very likely to spend too much. Take inventory of the cash you have on hand and/or estimate what you can afford as a monthly payment.
- Think about precisely what you want. Consider your driving habits, vehicle needs, and favorite perks – and jot them down. Having this list in front of you will prevent you from being swayed by vehicle types that you really don’t care for or bells and whistles that you won’t use.
3. Check auto insurance rates. Once you have narrowed your options to a body style or two, start looking into auto insurance rates for various makes and models (and don’t forget model years – premiums can vary from year to year). Car insurance is one of the major monthly expenses you’ll incur, so don’t skip this step.
- Shop around – a lot. There are plenty of sources of used car listings like auto magazines, newspapers, dealer sites or online portals (some of which are searchable by car type or price). You might be surprised at the variance in prices among similar used vehicles.
- Don’t forget private owners. Chances are good that you’ll get a lower price from a private seller than you will from a dealer. Make the effort to find resources that list “for sale by owner” cars from Craigslist ads to church newsletters.
- Consider rental car companies. Often, you can get a one- or two-year old car from auto rental companies at a huge discount from a dealer sticker price. They’ll even still be under the factory warranty. Just be sure to choose a reputable rental car firm.
- Emphasize value, not price. Don’t concentrate too much on a number; you actually want the best value for your dollar. You’ll probably find many different cars of similar body style or make/model within a tight price range, so it pays to focus more on the vehicle condition and amenities.
8. Get the Carfax. The minute you start thinking about purchasing a particular used car, ask to see the vehicle’s maintenance history report. This should list the collisions and/or repairs that were done on the car. Try to avoid buying one that has been in a major crash.
- Inspect and test drive your favorites. Don’t buy a used car before a) test driving it yourself under real-world conditions and b) having it inspected by a certified auto mechanic. Any seller who refuses these requests is not trustworthy enough for your business.
- Negotiate. There’s no such thing as a “fixed” price so don’t be afraid to ask for a lower one. If you’re negotiating with a dealer, ask to see each deal in writing (and look for hidden fees). Don’t be afraid to walk away – there are plenty of used cars out there.