Published on June 20th, 2022
Buying a car is a big decision, and one of the very first forks on the road is whether you want a brand-new vehicle or a used one that will save you a fair chunk of change. However, while there might be some very impressive cost-saving benefits to purchasing a pre-owned car, there are plenty of disadvantages, too. Luckily, many of these can be avoided if you just know how to go about it. These tips will help ensure you find the perfect secondhand car with the least fuss.
Know what you want
The first step to buying a car is deciding which one you want. This can be trickier when buying pre-owned as the cars have already been tailored to someone else’s needs and tastes. Thanks to the internet, this isn’t as difficult as it once was, though. There are so many websites to peruse, and you can still go the old-fashioned route and scout out some of the local dealerships.
Naturally, more mainstream models are easier to find, such as the top-selling cars in the USA, like the Toyota Camry or Honda HR-V. If you want something a little less common, like an eco-friendly Prius 3rd gen, you may have to search a bit harder and further afield. If you don’t mind paying a little extra, you could even shop out of state.
What’s important at this point is not to jump at the first car that seems close to what you want. Even if it’s a perfect fit, keep looking to see if you might find a better deal. You may still end up picking the first car for a variety of reasons, but knowing there’s a cheaper option out there might help you leverage the negotiations in your favor.
Know the car’s history
Once you settle on a car you like, you need to find out as much as you can about it. This means more than researching horsepower or fuel economy figures. A proper vehicle history is essential, but it’s strongly advised that you get an independent inspection, too. A used luxury car like a BMW F30 3 Series might look good on the surface, but they are notoriously unreliable. If there is something wrong under the hood, you could end up spending more on repairs and replacement parts than you are saving on the price of purchase.
Getting a firsthand look will help you spot any problems, but if you don’t know much about cars, it might help to take a mechanic along with you. After that, a test drive is a must, because you may feel some shakes or hear some rattles that you wouldn’t otherwise spot. Of course, this is all after you have checked the basics like reading the mileage on the odometer and making sure there’s no obvious rust damage around the body or in the engine bay.
If the seller is being a little sketchy, it’s usually a clear sign to walk away. But, if you are still tempted, you can use sites like the NHTSA to check VIN numbers if the vehicle has been in any accidents. It’s also a great way to see if any recalls have been issued so that you can be sure the necessary repairs have been performed. If they haven’t, you can check with the manufacturer to see if the car still qualifies for free maintenance or if you’ll have to pay for it out of pocket.
Know the hidden costs
Unexpected repairs such as those mentioned above are just one of the many extra costs you’ll need to consider when buying a used car. The asking price is really just the starting point, and even that number isn’t set in stone. Many sellers will be willing to negotiate, and if you factor in things like registration and licensing, you may be able to convince them to lower the price accordingly.
If you can only find the car you want out of state, then there will be extra fees like mandatory emissions inspections and delivery or transport fees. If you plan to drive the car yourself, you’ll need to insure it and possibly even get a temporary registration permit.
This all sounds pretty daunting, and it can indeed seem like it may not be worth the effort. But so long as you know what you’re doing and keep your wits about you, it is possible to pick up an amazing car in good condition for a real steal. Sure, you may have to pay for services or any unexpected problems down the line out of pocket if the warranty has expired, but so long as the vehicle has been well-maintained by the previous owner, these costs shouldn’t be enough to offset the money you save.