Buying a used car often makes a lot of financial sense, costing much less than a new car on average and allowing you to avoid taking on an expensive car payment. On the other hand, it's important to do your research and buy the right used car, so you don't end up sinking tons of money into ongoing repairs. Here are five tips for buying a great used car and protecting yourself financially:
Start with a Clear Budget
Unless you start your search with a defined budget in mind, you may be tempted to buy a used car that is more expensive than you can really afford, especially if the seller emphasizes what a "good deal" it is. By sitting down and creating a budget, you will be able to rule out cars that are way too expensive at a glance, and negotiate if a car is a little outside of your budget.
Whether you are planning to take out a loan or buy your car with cash, determine how much you can afford to spend either up-front or monthly, and take into account additional expenses like insurance, gas, and repairs. A car that is a bit more expensive but runs great and has low mileage may cost you less in the long run. If you're not sure where to begin, start with an online car budget calculator.
Research Cars You're Interested In
Another important step in buying a used car is to research the makes and models you're most interested. Don't forget to research the specific year, since quality can vary from year to year. A general search for reviews of the cars you're interested in will give you a good idea of any known mechanical issues as well as gas mileage and comfort. Checking out safety ratings for specific cars is also very important.
Have the Car Inspected by a Mechanic
Once you have honed in on a specific car, ask the seller if you can schedule a time for your mechanic to check it out. It's always a good idea to have your own impartial mechanic perform the inspection, rather than relying on someone recommended by the seller. If the mechanic notes any problems, such as a timing belt or other part that will need to be replaced soon, ask for an estimate of how much the repairs will cost. You may be able to negotiate with the seller to cover the cost of the repairs or at least reduce the price a bit.
Ask for the Carfax Report
Carfax reports provide detailed histories of used cars, including information an unscrupulous seller may try to conceal, such as accidents or a salvage title that will make the car difficult to insure. If you buy a used car from a dealership, they will most likely run the report for you right there. If buying from an independent seller, you will probably have to run and pay for the report yourself. To do so, you will need to ask for the VIN number of the vehicle.
Take It on a Test Drive
Finally, don't skip out on a test drive. If possible, go alone so that you can really focus. Sometimes a car may be perfect on paper, but you may find it uncomfortable or awkward to drive. Getting behind the wheel is the only way to learn exactly what the car will feel like to drive every day.
Buying a used car can be a very wise financial choice. By following these tips, you will be able to avoid buying a lemon and make sure you get the best car for your money.