Unless you’re in a city with some pretty robust public transportation (or you don’t want to wait 45 minutes after the train gets delayed yet again) owning your own car is almost a must. However, if you’re simply looking to get from Point A to Point B and don’t need the latest makes and models, you’re probably in the market for a used vehicle. While the process seems like it’s fairly simple overall, there are a few key steps you should take before you ever even take a test drive. Here’s what you need to know.
Set a budget
This is going to be completely dependent on your income, your needs, and your overall wishlist. As difficult as it can be, it’s important to set a firm budget and stick to it. After all, there’s a reason that there are so many jokes about used car salespeople. It’s because they know how to sweet talk you into spending just that bit extra for something you don’t need. Then of course, you’re left with a bad case of sticker shock and early onset buyer’s remorse.
When you’re setting a budget, it’s important to separate your wants from your needs. Sure, would it be incredibly handy to be able to connect your phone wirelessly via Bluetooth? You’re darn right it would. Would it also come at a premium price since it’s a fairly new feature for many vehicles? You’re darn right there, too. Think of the essentials. If you live in a hotter climate, that includes things like air conditioning and electronic windows. If you’re in a more moderate part of the country, you might be able to get away with a no-frills car that doesn’t come with any add-ons. Of course, determining wants and needs tends to be a bit subjective at the end of the day, but if you ask yourself “Will I survive without this?” and the answer is a resounding “Yes.” you might be able to get away with skipping out on a few of the fancier additions.
Do your research
Now that you have a budget firmed up, it’s time to get a general idea of the cars that fall within your preferred price range. There are plenty of great resources online, like Kelly Blue Book, that can help you find current values for many vehicles. That way, when you’re looking up, say, a Toyota dealership in Manchester, CT or a Honda lot in Hoboken, you’ll be more informed when you see the prices listed on a lot’s site. This also lets you do a fair bit of cross-referencing. If a dealership is charging quite a bit more than a car’s estimated overall value, it’s a great card to have up your sleeve when it comes time to negotiate. If you’ve done your research, you’ll be able to ask more informed questions about the car’s condition and determine its worth for yourself.
If you happen to be buying the car from someone you found on Craigslist or in the classifieds, you would want to be extra careful in moving forward with your purchase. Craigslist and other listing-based platforms are notorious for scamming. Of course, it’s not impossible to score a good deal, but you need to do proper research into the seller. With resources like Go Look Up, this can be done with ease. Such tools allow you to people search for free, scanning millions of databases to find mugshots, arrest records, phone numbers, and so much more. By relying on such a tool, you can be in better positioning to determine whether the seller you are dealing with is honest and telling the truth, or has a criminal record and a history of scamming people for their money.
Request an inspection
Of course, you should never buy sight unseen, but you should also never buy a vehicle that hasn’t been thoroughly inspected. Even if it runs smoothly during a test drive, it’s nearly impossible to tell a used vehicle’s history just by looking at it. For instance, you might think it was nice of the dealer to throw in new car mats and seat covers, but that could be a direct result of a car suffering from water damage during flooding. Plus, it’d be a shame to drive your “new” used car off the lot only for it to die on you mere months later. Protect your investment and insist on a pre-purchase inspection.
Buying a used car should be an exciting process, but you always need to make sure you’ve properly prepared. After all, it can be a hefty investment and leave you with monthly loan payments for years to come. Make smart choices during the buying process and soon you’ll be riding in style.