How to Choose a Used Car To Buy


Every three out of four cars on the road was sold as a used car. Buying a used car can result in tremendous savings. Unfortunately, it can also mean that you risk getting stuck with a lemon. Before you head out to car shop, you should learn about how to choose a used car to buy.

Learning how to choose a used car to buy can help you get the value you deserve. There are some easy steps you can take before you make a buying decision. Learn how to choose a used car to buy and get reliable transportation you can depend on.

Why Buying a Used Car Is A Great Idea

Most people know that buying a used car is a great way to save money, but they do not realize how much money they lose when buying a new car. A car is almost always a bad investment from an ROI standpoint. The minute you drive a car off the lot, it begins depreciating. On average, you lose $1000 worth of value on a new car with the first 100 miles you put on it.

The average car rarely increases in value. Typically, it decreases in value rapidly. Car depreciation is the value of your car compared to what you paid for it. According to current trends, a new car can lose about 20% value after the first year of ownership. Let’s use a simple math equation. If you pay $40,000 for a car and sell it after one year, you will lose about $8000.

If you are like most people, you cringed when you read that you could lose $8000 in one year. But used cars can actually hold their value longer. After owning a used car for a few years, it will stop losing value at an exponential rate. The depreciation starts to level off.

You pay less for a used car, and you lose less value when you resell it. There are other great reasons why buying a used car can be the best option including:

Owning a used car can be less expensive across the board. Of course, you also can drive a used car with less worry. Imagine the amount of stress that comes with driving a $40,000 car. You have to worry about where to park, small dings and dents, and more.

Like all good things, there are potential negatives when you buy a used car that you have to be careful to avoid. For example, you may be buying someone’s headache if you get stuck with a used car that spends more time at the shop than it does on the road. You do have to take some precautions to make sure you do not make a bad buying decision.

Learning how to choose a used car to buy by following the tips below will make sure that you get a great deal on a reliable car and don’t have to spend money on a towing service every couple of weeks.

Know The Value

Before you make an appointment to see the used car you are considering, do a little research. Look up the make and model and see what the going rate is. The first lesson in how to choose a used car to buy is not to overpay.

Gathering some information about comparable models and the cost will not only give you an idea of what you should be paying, but it can be a great negotiation tool. Going in blindly can result in overpaying for a used car. Take the time to do the research. There are plenty of websites that will provide you with pricing information.

Never Buy Blindly

Make sure you can see the vehicle that you plan on purchasing. One of the things that experts recommend about how to choose a used car to buy is never to buy it online sight unseen. There are a lot of car buying scams online. Never send anyone a deposit via an electronic money transfer service no matter how good the deal seems.

Go in-person to see the car. It is the only way to follow many of the tips on this list on how to choose a used car to buy. It is the safer way to buy a car. Speaking of safety, you should always take someone with you to see a car you plan on buying from a private party. It is just safer to travel with another person to meet a stranger.

Do a Complete Inspection of the Interior and Exterior

Go over the car you are considering with a fine-tooth comb. Make sure everything is in working condition on the interior. Check the interior lights, the dashboard lights and look for any broken or missing parts. Sure, you can replace lightbulbs and do some minor fixes to the interior and the exterior, but small issues may indicate bigger, less obvious problems.

Think of it this way. If you were trying to sell a car, and there was a small repair like replacing a lightbulb for $5, wouldn’t you replace it to increase the odds of selling the car? Sometimes those little things that the owner explains away with “haven’t got around to it” can mean an electrical problem that is expensive to fix. If it is just a simple fix, ask the owner if they would be willing to do the repair before you buy the car.

Look for evidence of auto repair on the exterior of the car. If the exterior has noticeable signs of repair, it could indicate that the car has been involved in an accident and that it could have serious frame damage.

Look Under the Car

After you have inspected the exterior, look under the car. Take a look at the tires closely. You can make tires look like new tires by adding some tire cleaner and conditioner. Check the threads of the tires. Look for any noticeable leaks.

A puddle of oil or other fluid under the car is a bad sign. If the owner says that the fluid is there because they just gave the car an oil change, walk away from the deal. The vehicle has a leak somewhere, and it can be expensive to fix.

Take it For a Test Drive

This is one of the most important tips on how to choose a used car to buy. Take the car for a test drive to get a feel for the car. You will be able to see if it hesitates or if it is making any unusual noises. A test drive is the best way to learn about a vehicle.

A test drive will reveal problems with the engine, transmission, brakes, and even the car’s axles. It is an absolute must if you want to ensure you get the best value for your money.

If there are needed repairs, you want to know about them. Unfortunately, asking the seller does not always get you the most information. Driving the vehicle will. If you are an inexperienced driver, take someone with you who knows about cars.

Check the Vehicle History Report

You can check the vehicle history report right online to learn more about the vehicle. All you need is the VIN number. Any seller who is being honest would not mind supplying you with the information. The vehicle history report can provide how many people have owned the car and whether the car was ever in an accident.

The vehicle history will also tell you the financing history of the vehicle. It will tell you if there are any liens on the vehicle with a vehicle loan company. It is important information and worth the extra step.

Bring It To a Mechanic

If the seller agrees, you should take the vehicle to a certified mechanic to inspect the vehicle. They have the trained eye to determine if the car is truly a good deal or not. A mechanic can see things that the average person would overlook. For example, if the car had any custom metal fabrication to hide the damage caused by an accident, a mechanic would notice it right away.

A mechanic can tell you if any immediate problems jump out at them that would need to be addressed to make the car safe and reliable. If what the seller tells you about the vehicle is legitimate, they should have no problem letting a mechanic inspect the vehicle.

How To Choose a Used Car To Buy When You Know It Needs Works

Sometimes, you may come across a vehicle that needs some work, but you think it is still worth it. For example, you find a repairable salvage motorcycle for sale. If you insist on buying something that needs some work, bring a mechanic with you to meet the owner. What the owner is telling you needs to be repaired and what actually needs to be repaired may differ greatly.

Going into the sale with a clear understanding of what it will take to make the vehicle safe and reliable is very important. For instance, you find a great late-model car with low miles, but it needs glass replacement. The glass replacement will cost you about $300 on top of the purchase price. It may be a great deal, but what if you replace the glass and absorb that cost, but then find the transmission needs to be replaced? Whether you are buying a used vehicle that needs repairs or not, rule number one of how to choose a used car to buy applies. Make sure you know what you are getting into.

Pay By Check if You Can

Paying by check may seem a bit old-fashioned, but the beauty is that it is completely traceable, and the payment can be stopped. Of course, the seller may balk at the idea of accepting a check, but it is important that you can trace your payment.

In that same vein, if the seller is making any promises like they will put new tires on the car before you pick it up, or they will have the service done before you pick it up, get it all in writing. What someone says and what someone does once they have your money can be two very different things. You want to make sure that you have everything in writing.

Remember This is a Business Transaction

One of the best tips on how to choose a used car to buy is to keep in mind throughout the process that this is a business transaction. The seller may seem like the nicest person in the world, but you likely will never see them again. It is okay to be assertive throughout the process, ask pointed questions, and keep an all-business attitude.

There Are Great Used Cars Out There

The tips above may make you feel weary about buying a used car, but you shouldn’t be. Be a savvy consumer and learn how to choose a used car to buy so you do not get taken advantage of by a shady seller. Most sellers are pretty honest about what they are selling.

Hopefully, these tips will make it easier for you to find a reliable vehicle that you can depend on. Enjoy the savings and the ride.

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