Buying Your First Used Car? Use These Tips To Get The Best Deal!

Making the decision to purchase a used car is an economical way to get an affordable vehicle at a substantial savings over the cost of a brand new one. In addition, the costs involved in driving a used vehicle can also be much less than those associated with a new car due to lower car insurance premiums, and reduced amounts for personal property taxation assessments and state sales taxes, where applicable. To get the best deal on a used car, however, it is important to do your homework before shopping, and these tips will help!

Establishing Your Price Range

The amount you wish to spend on a new car will largely determine the age, model and condition of the used car that you buy. If you will be paying cash for the purchase, you already know what price range you will be shopping in, but if not, you will need to secure financing before you begin.

Some auto dealerships offer financing programs for the purchase of used cars or you can choose to take out a car loan from your bank or credit union. Compare the interest rates, terms and fees associated with each one before making your decision and make sure that the monthly payment fits comfortably into your total transportation budget along with the operating costs, insurance premiums and routine maintenance costs, such as oil changes and the periodic replacement of tires, brakes, belts, filters and hoses.   

Choosing The Best Car

Once you have established a price range that fits your budget and have set aside the cash or secured a car loan to make the purchase, you are ready to begin shopping. To get the best deal, take time to explore local car lots, auto auctions and cars being advertised for sale by their owners. Examine each possibility carefully and then eliminate any cars that: 

  • have damage, rust or obvious flaws in the paint, as all these factors could indicate more serious problems 
  • have hoods and doors that fit poorly or seem hard or noisy to open and close, as this can be an indicator that the car has been involved in an accident 
  • have visible leaks on the ground or pavement, or have oil, transmission or other fluid stains on the motor or undercarriage, as this could indicate a need for expensive repairs
  • have engines that smoke, steam or are unusually noisy while running
  • have engines that are hard to start or put off gasoline or hot oil smells while running 
  • have interiors that look excessively worn, dirty or damaged, which often means the car was not properly maintained by a previous owner

Invite Your Mechanic Along For The Test Drive

Once you have narrowed the field and found a few likely contenders, you are ready to take each car for a test drive to see how it handles in normal driving conditions. Invite your mechanic or a someone who has mechanical skills to accompany you when test driving so that they can look for signs of mechanical issues that you may not notice. 

Make sure the test drive includes a few miles of both highway speed and slower driving, such as you might do when driving in traffic or running errands. Stop and start the car a few times during the test drive and make sure that you watch closely for any signs that the transmission, brakes and engine are not operating properly. If you frequently drive on hilly terrain or gravel roads, make sure to include those conditions in the route you choose for your test drive to make sure the car handles them well.

Verify The Documentation

When someone sells a car, they must include the correct mileage, owner information and type of title. If the car has been issued a salvage title, the value of the car, as well as your ability to purchase full coverage auto insurance is at risk. To ensure that you do not purchase a car with inaccurate or falsified documentation, choose to go online and do a free VIN history report

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is an identifying number that is permanently affixed to the vehicle at the time it is manufactured and also included on the title and licensing documents. Ownership, as well as accidents, thefts, repossessions or any other type of incident involved the vehicle is tracked by the VIN for the life of the automobile.