Shopping for a new-to-you used car can take time, especially if you’re not quite sure what you want or if you’ve never purchased a car before. A car is an investment so be patient and try to see as many vehicles in person as you can.
Buy here pay here car lots are a great place to go for a wide variety of options so if you’re thinking about buying a used vehicle, rev up your search by focusing on these top tips to keep in mind when considering which type of car to buy. Having some foresight into what you’re looking for is always helpful before you buy!
1. Do a bit of homework first
Automobiles are a big purchase and it pays to hit pause and do a bit of homework first – before you visit the dealership. Overall, it pays to be flexible when searching for a pre-owned car and not necessarily limiting your search to a specific make, model, or color. Have a couple of alternative vehicles in mind you’d like to consider.
Once you’ve made a list of your “must-haves” and “like to have,” you can help narrow down your many options and bring focus to your search. Generally, it’s good to know a bit about what you want before visiting different dealerships.
And on the subject of dealerships, consider searching dealers outside of your immediate geographic area to use competition to your advantage. You can look at many dealerships inventory online before you drive out of your way to visit in person, ensuring they have a car you’re interested in will save you a trip.
2. Discover what trusted research has to say
If reliability is highly important to you, research to see which used car models have proven reliability. Check out the J.D. Power website for its annual dependability survey, it focuses on problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old vehicles.
And be sure to check the Consumer Reports annual auto issue for a list of their recommendations. This type of information can guide you in creating a list of car types you want to explore.
3. Zero in on the essential features you need
If you have a big family, or frequently drive a carpool or with a dog tagging along, for example, you might want to narrow your search to vehicles that can seat everyone comfortably. An SUV or minivan might be the style of car that works best, particularly if you’ll frequently drive two or more other people and need enough room for all.
And if your travel includes a child seat, will it fit well inside the vehicle you’re considering? A two-seat sportscar might be practically perfect for some buyers and much too cramped to be workable for others.
Understand the types of features that apply to the type of driving you anticipate and best suit your personality. For instance, if driving off road is common for you, a vehicle with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive might be very important. Research which vehicles best fit the types of roads you’ll be driving on primarily.
Do you regularly need to lug around heavy, bulky, or larger items? If so, get a car with adequate storage space. Will you need to tow a boat or trailer? Realistically, many cars aren’t cut out for the job and a pick-up truck or SUV might have both the power and towing capacity you need.
What kind of gas mileage does your ideal target vehicle get? You can keep your driving costs down when you choose a vehicle with greater fuel efficiency, like a smaller, hybrid, or even electric cars.
4. Test drive
Can the driver’s seat tilt, rise, and slide to a position where you’ll be most comfortable? Is there enough legroom for you? Do all the controls and seatbelts work? A comfortable interior and legroom are important.
Testing the vehicle on highways and side roads is a great way to gauge how the cars feel and handle – and an essential part of the complete evaluation process. Did the car start easily? Does the vehicle pull to one side when driving? Is acceleration smooth? Did you hear any unexpected noises? A test drive is crucial.
5. Have the car inspected by a pro
You never know how a car’s previous owner treated or maintained the vehicle. Car dealers often have “certified inspected” designations. Get a CarFax report for the specific automobile you’re considering by entering the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and paying a small fee.
You can certainly ask the dealer to provide vehicle history and inspection reports before you close any deal. Finally, feel free to take the car (and the vehicle history report) to your own, trusted mechanic for further inspection prior to making a final decision. These inspections are typically a nominal fee and they can double-check that everything seems accurate.
6. Money Matters
Of course, you’ll want to get the best price possible on your purchase – so go in prepared. For starters, know the Kelly Blue Book value for the market value of the makes and models you’re interested in to give you a good ballpark range.
Perhaps the biggest factors in a used vehicle’s price are mileage and age so don’t take published values too literally since they don’t reflect any specific car or its dings, scratches, stains or background. What’s most important is to get a sense of current asking prices in your local market.
It can be rue that some vehicles have much higher insurance rates than others. Before deciding on a specific vehicle to purchase, make a call to your insurance agent so you’ve taken that expense into account as part of your overall decision-making process and so you’re not surprised.
Dealers want to move vehicles off their lot but they also want to make a profit. Be prepared to negotiate but also be prepared to walk away to Dealer B if Dealer A won’t come down from the asking price. However, if Dealer A comes very close to the number you were hoping for, and it’s within the range of your research and going price in your area, it might be time to do business.
Remember, feel free to sleep on any purchasing decision before signing. So, when the dealing is done and you drive off the dealership lot with your new wheels, you’re satisfied you got a fair deal.
When you’ve made up your mind though, don’t wait too long, you wouldn’t want to miss out on a car you love because you were too nervous to go for it. Let all your research reassure you that you are making the right choice!
Shopping for a car can be a stressful experience but when you put in a little research time and follow these tips you can be sure that you have contemplated all the variables and you are prepared for your new car! Enjoy that new car and drive safely!