Purchasing a used car is a smart way to protect your budget. The majority of financial experts advise against buying new cars. The cost will be more affordable, and you'll save money on registration and taxes, insurance, and depreciation. If you need to finance your purchase, it will be easier to absorb your monthly payment into your budget. However, buying a used car requires more careful attention to details to avoid disappointment or fraud.
Here are six things to consider before buying a used car.
1. How Much Can You Afford?
If you can buy the car with cash, you're in a much better position. But, if you need to finance the purchase, you should try to keep the monthly payment to no more than 20% of your take-home pay. You'll save money if you secure an auto loan from a lender rather than taking the dealer's financing. Once you have your financing in hand, you'll be in a better position to negotiate over the price. When budgeting, be sure to include maintenance, insurance, and fuel.
2. Are You Getting the Best Price?
Begin by deciding what kind of car you want to purchase.
- How will you use the car?
- Will you make long commutes?
- Will it be only for short trips close to home?
- Do you have a family? If so, you'll need a car roomy enough for everyone.
Once you've completed your research, compile a list of dealerships in your area. Shop around and don't feel embarrassed by leaving without buying a used car or returning after visiting other dealerships.
3. How Does the Car Feel on the Road?
Taking the car for a test drive is the only way to get a feel for how it handles on the road and whether it suits you.
- Can you easily reach all the gauges and controls?
- How comfortable is the seat?
- Are all the dashboard lights working correctly?
- Leave the radio off and listen carefully for any unusual sounds.
- Drive at various speeds to determine the car's acceleration and braking ability.
4. How is the Car's Condition?
It's critical to have the car checked out by a qualified mechanic before you finalize the purchase. Dealers typically include the cost of the inspection in the price. If you're working with a private seller, you'll need to cover this service out of your pocket. However, it's worth it. If you don't know the mechanic, get recommendations. You want one that is independent of the dealer.
5. Are There Any Hidden Problems?
A used car can look great inside and out, but the seller could be hiding the car's accident history. By carefully examining the car's exterior, you might find signs of damage due to a collision. Look for uneven body panels or a mismatched paint job. If the hood or doors don't close smoothly, this could indicate the car was involved in an accident.
6. What is the Car's History?
Before finalizing your purchase, run the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to access the vehicle's history. The report will tell you:
- if the car has been in accidents
- its previous owners
- if there have been any problems with the car
- and whether there are any recalls.
You'll want to make sure the VIN matches the vehicle title and records. This is especially important if you are purchasing the used car from a private seller. AutoCheck or CARFAX are useful online resources to help you with your VIN research.
Buying a car is an exciting endeavor. It should be fun, yet at the same time, you want to take your time before purchasing. Be deliberate, exercise your right as a consumer to carefully check all the details, and be prepared to negotiate your way to the best price.
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