On the Path to Purchase; How to Buy a Used Car in 5 Steps

By May 2, 2016Car Buying

2016-03-15-1458081230-9409989-20cheapskate-thumbOn the “Path to Purchase”.

So, you have decided that it’s time to buy a vehicle? Purchasing “used” instead of “new” will offer you the best value in the automotive marketplace. Not only are the prices lower, but other benefits include; lower taxes, insurance, and depreciation costs. Whether you are looking to buy a car from a auto dealership, CPO, or private party, this list can help you make it the best car buying experience yet!

Budget and location.

First, determine your budget and then begin researching car brands online before heading to the lot. Here is a list of the top used cars brands from Consumer Reports. Consider what cars fit your budget, lifestyle needs, and whether purchasing CPO is important. Next, you can research vehicles on Craigslist based on your criteria, such as, how long has the car been on the market? any reductions? typically cars over 30 days have had at least one mark down. You can also filter your search by distance, mileage, price, and features; to narrow your findings and get the car you desire. Also, compare auto dealerships in your area to see if any of them are offering a better deal on the same vehicle. You can purchase a used car at; used car dealerships, used car superstores, and private party sellers.

Don’t be afraid to ask. 

Once you have narrowed your search to a few vehicles, it is important not to be afraid to ask questions. This rule applies no matter where you end up buying your vehicle — it can mean the difference of purchasing a “bargain” or a “lemon“. According to Consumer Reports here is a list of questions that are good to ask the dealership:

  • “How many miles does it have?”
  • “How is it equipped?”
  • “What’s the car’s condition?”
  • “How about the body and interior?”
  • “Has it been in an accident?”
  • “Do you have service records?”
  • “Has the car been recalled?”

How much is the car worth?

Before starting to negotiate price. Do your homework and determine what the vehicle is worth; there are many factors and tools available to help you. Some of the factors for determining price include mileage, year of the vehicle, condition, and any optional/additional features. Online tools including Kelley Blue Book and the National Automobile Dealers Association can help to determine the book price. Also, check Carfax to get a vehicle history report, the report includes odometer readings, existence of a branded title such as a salvage/junk title, or past registration as a fleet vehicle. Checking multiple resources, before you negotiate, will support what you are offering to pay for the vehicle.

Automotive manufacturer websites are also a good resource once you have decided on a vehicle. They generally feature packages, equipment options, and help you customize your vehicle with different configurations especially if you are looking for a new car. They can also help you find a nearby dealership and search their inventory. Click here for a list of the Top Best Car Manufacturer websites according to JD Power 2015.

Contact the seller and test drive!

If everything is still looking good up until this point – it’s time to contact the dealership/seller and take a test drive! If you like the way the vehicle drives it is good to have it inspected by an auto mechanic before negotiating. If the car is CPO (certified pre-owned) there is no need to pay for an additional inspection.

Negotiate and Own it.

  • First settle on the price of the vehicle you are buying; a general rule is 5-10% lower than the sticker price
  • Expect a counter offer
  • Be firm, yet courteous, when you have reached your final offer
  • Don’t discuss your trade-in vehicle until after you have determined your negotiated price
  • Be prepared to walk away than pay more than you should

Our Tips? Shop for your ideal car early in the month or season, and purchase it later in the month or quarter/season. Get your test drives out of the way, and begin narrowing your list. When the last few days of the month come around, start visiting auto dealerships to start the final negotiating process and own your ride!

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