Buying a pre-owned vehicle can be challenging. After all, no one wants to end up with a lemon! Thankfully, numerous tools and resources are available to help buyers make informed decisions. Eliminate the guesswork by following these tips and reviewing this comprehensive checklist.
Do Your Homework
Before visiting a used car dealership Utah, put a few vehicles on the shortlist. Once that’s done, learn about each model’s repair costs, common defects, and depreciation. With this knowledge, you’ll gain bargaining power and an eye for vehicles’ strengths and weaknesses.
Set and Follow a Budget
When financing a car, putting down 20% or more lowers the monthly payment. Paying as much as possible upfront is a good idea, as used cars may need more frequent maintenance. Along with repair costs, it’s wise to research the costs of fuel and insurance when buying a used car.
Find a Great Deal
Aside from used car dealerships, there are great deals available online and at local auctions; each source has unique advantages.
- Dealerships typically have wide selections and can offer extras like floor mats, spare keys, and new tires.
- Online classified sites have listings from sellers in your area and across the country.
- Auctions offer steep discounts, but vehicles are sold as-is. When buying a car from an auction, research its health and history.
While online classified ads and auctions may have great deals, buying from a reputable used car dealership offers peace of mind.
When consulting a private seller or dealer, get as much data as possible. Here are a few things to ask a seller before buying a used vehicle:
- Why are you selling the vehicle?
- How many times has it changed hands?
- What’s the car’s condition?
- How many miles are on the odometer?
- Has the vehicle been in any accidents?
- Has the model been recalled in the past?
- When was the vehicle last inspected?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions—sellers expect them! With these answers, you’ll come away knowing a little more about the vehicle you’re buying.
Schedule an Inspection
Before getting behind the wheel, be sure to inspect the vehicle. Inspections may be time-consuming, but they’re a crucial part of the process. Check the exterior for signs of rust, body damage, and repairs, and look inside for worn upholstery, strange odors, and working controls. If possible, hire a trustworthy service technician to perform the inspection.
Take it For a Spin
After looking the vehicle over, it’s time for a road test. Drive the vehicle in an open lot and on roads where the speed limit exceeds 60 miles per hour. To assess the vehicle’s condition, test its:
- Windshield wipers.
- Heating and air conditioning.
- Headlights, taillights, and turn signals.
- Power windows and locks.
- Infotainment and audio system.
When you’ve tested the vehicle’s major components, turn off all audio and listen for odd noises that may indicate emerging issues.
Get a History Report
Although most sellers are honest, some may fail to disclose major defects to potential buyers. To avoid buying a lemon, write down the car’s VIN (vehicle identification number), which is a 17-digit code imprinted on a dashboard plate. Then, look up the VIN on a site such as Autocheck or Carfax to learn about the vehicle’s history.
Sit Down at the Bargaining Table
Sellers often counter with higher prices, so begin with a low but realistic offer. Before bargaining for a used vehicle, get its market value from a reputable source like the Kelley Blue Book. Don’t get carried away; stick to your budget. If the seller’s counteroffer is close to the vehicle’s market value, close the deal—but don’t be afraid to look elsewhere.
Buying a vehicle from a private party may be a viable option for those planning to pay in cash. Negotiating prices with private sellers leads to better deals, but these purchases rarely come with warranty coverage so getting your own auto protection plan.
Learn About Dealer and Outside Financing Options
While most dealers offer financing, they’re not always the best option. Check other sources for better rates, starting with your credit union or bank. As with other things in life, it pays to shop around for auto financing.
Trust Your Instincts
A bit of common sense goes a very long way when buying a used car. Ask yourself if the seller seems trustworthy and learn the strategies unethical owners use to hide problems. Don’t make an impulsive purchase because a car looks good—because if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Find the Right Time for a Used Vehicle Purchase: Sometimes it Pays to Wait
Because dealers often have sales quotas, it may help to shop for a used vehicle at the end of the year, quarter, or month. By waiting, you’ll be more likely to find a salesperson who’s willing to bargain. Shop on a sunny, clear day so dings, dents, bubbling paint, and other flaws are easy to see. Buying during the off-season, with its lower demand, may bring more affordable prices.
Consider Insurance Coverage
Before stepping into a used car dealership and beginning to negotiate, shop for auto insurance. Once you’ve chosen a make and model, you’ll find it easier to sort coverage options by policy term and price.
Close the Deal and Register Your Vehicle
Once you’ve agreed on a price, paperwork is all that’s left to do. If you’re purchasing a used car from a dealer, they’ll handle the titling and registration processes. Private-party sales go differently; simply take the signed title and bill of sale to a local DMV office to complete registration.
Keep These Tips in Mind When Shopping for a Used Vehicle
Buying a used vehicle involves a thorough examination and careful consideration. By following the tips on our checklist, you’ll gather the tools needed to make an informed decision and drive away with confidence in your purchase. Used car purchases don’t have to be intimidating—with patience, effort, and due diligence, anyone can find the vehicle they want at a price they can afford.