Finding a good deal on used cars will take some effort. But since this is a very significant decision, the work you put in will be worth it. You want the peace of mind of knowing that you have made the best possible choice.
You’ll be looking for something close to the wholesale value of the vehicle, while the seller will be looking for a price closer to the retail value. More than likely, the two of you will come somewhere in the middle depending on your negotiating skills. Before you sign on the dotted line, however, there will be some steps you’ll need to take to make sure your used car is worth the price.
If possible, take the vehicle to a mechanic who you trust and have it thoroughly inspected. Try to get the vehicle’s maintenance history if you can too. You can get a Carfax report that could help, but it will probably only give you a partial picture of how often the vehicle has been worked on. If the vehicle has been registered in different states, see if you can get a copy of the title from each of those states’ vehicle registries. If you ever see that the vehicle has been declared a salvage vehicle, you should move on to another one.
You’ll also want to perform your own visual inspection. Check for anything that may indicate damage, such as new paint, rust, or scratches. New paint will typically fade faster than factory paint. Check the lower left side corner of the front windshield to look at the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate. If it looks like it has been tampered with in any way, there is a possibility that the vehicle may have been stolen.
Dealers are required by federal law to post a buyer’s guide for all of the used cars that they have for sale. This will provide you important information such as whether the vehicle comes with any sort of warranty or is being sold on an “as is” basis. If there is a warranty, make sure you find out what part of the repair costs the dealer will cover.
Going into a dealership can be very tempting, because you’ll probably see a wide selection of used cars. Keep your cool and don’t try to buy a vehicle that you really can’t afford. Take your time and make sure you get a vehicle that is within your means. Once you have narrowed down your choices of used cars to one you trust will be reliable and meet your needs, make your final decision with confidence.