8 Things You Need to Know About Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car is up there as one of the biggest decisions in a person’s life – right alongside buying a house, getting married, and changing careers. 

There’s a lot of unknown when making such a large investment. What car do you buy, where do you buy it from, what do you specifically look for? 

The last thing you want to do is spend nearly $20,000 only to find out you made a terrible decision and have no recourse. That’s why it’s so important to do your homework and research every aspect before the big decision. 

Today, we’re going to show you the eight important things you need to consider before buying a used car!

1. Buy Used – Period

Our first bit of advice is something you probably already have in mind. If you’re reading this article at all, you’re most likely considering buying a used car anyway.

But we want to stress just how important this decision is, even if you’re only buying one year old!

The average price of a new car in 2018 hovered well over $30,000. Whereas, a used car can go as low as $11,000 (even with only 2-3 years on its record). 

This type of savings (usually) vastly outweighs what you’ll miss out on with buying a new car. But you still need to take other elements into consideration, which we’ll get into next. 

2. Get Your Budget Together

So, you know you want to buy a used car, but you’re wondering how to buy a used car. It definitely starts with your budget. 

You may think that because you’re buying used, you’re already saving money, so you don’t need to worry about finances all that much. Wrong. 

You’re still making a big investment, and you need to have a safe middle ground of what you can handle. For example:

  • What’s the biggest downpayment you can make? What’s the lowest? 
  • What’s the most you can spend on a monthly loan payment? What’s the least?

You want to know what you can reasonably pay up front and per month, but you also don’t want to spend too little. After all, you don’t want to be paying off your used car for 10 years or more!

Remember to take into account all your monthly expenses:

  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Phone
  • Internet
  • Food
  • Student loans
  • Entertainment
  • etc. 

What are you left with? Hopefully, you have numbers you can work with. 

3. Shop Around Dealerships

It’s also important to shop around and see what multiple dealerships can offer you for the same vehicle. 

Who knows, maybe one dealership offers a better lease agreement if that’s something you’re specifically looking for. You won’t know until you shop around, though.

Sometimes, we don’t have a lot of time. You know the feeling when you go out for groceries; you know eggs are a couple bucks cheaper at the store around the corner, but you can’t be bothered. 

You shouldn’t have that same mentality when purchasing a vehicle worth tens of thousands of dollars, though. You can even use offers made to you as bargaining chips with other dealerships. 

You also want to see what other benefits dealerships offer, including roadside assistance, scheduled maintenance, etc. Click here to learn all about the extra advantages a used car dealership can offer. 

4. Buying a Used Car at the Right Time

Among all the useful tips for buying a used car out there, timing can be an important one, too.

The reality is that you need a car when you need a car. If your old one has finally kicked the bucket or you need something reliable for an upcoming trip, time may not be on your side. 

Then again, if you have some breathing room, it’s always a good idea to buy a used car toward the end of quarterly sales. This includes:

  • March
  • June
  • September
  • December

Car sellers almost always have quotas to meet each sales quarter, and sometimes there are bonuses in store for them if they reach certain numbers. This means that a salesperson will be more likely to haggle with you (more on that in a second). 

Often, this can be even truer during the calendar year, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a new car around the holidays. 

5. Negotiate

When you walk into a department store for an item, you usually don’t try to haggle the price. 

But when it comes to cars, it’s almost expected that you will negotiate on the price to some extent. This is where your homework really comes into play so arm yourself with:

  • Online prices
  • Deals from other dealerships
  • Private listings
  • etc. 

Not everything is going to work to your advantage, but you want to show the salesperson that you’re already knowledgable about the car’s value.

6. Prioritize Your Needs

Whether buying a used car or a new car, you always need to consider what you need out of a car. 

If you don’t have a clear picture of your needs, you might be driving off the lot in a Hummer with a $1,000 monthly payment as a single bachelor.

Come up with a checklist, such as:

  • How many passengers will you carry on average?
  • How much can you spend on gas monthly?
  • How important is reliability? In other words, how long do you plan on having the car before getting a new one?
  • etc.

Regardless of what your needs may be, you want to have an idea up front. 

7. Make Sure Add-Ons are Necessary

There are a lot of things you can add onto a car or your financial agreement. 

For example, you can upgrade engines, add technological amenities, etc., but you can also add certain protections and insurances to your loan. Whether it’s finances or an actual part of the car, make sure you need it. 

You don’t want to be paying any more for something you didn’t need in the first place.

8. Give it a Spin

Ultimately, you’re not going to know what used car is right for you until you’re actually in the driver’s seat. 

Almost all quality dealerships (and private sellers) will let you test drive a car. 

Make sure you test out as much as possible to see if everything is functioning properly:

  • Drive on slow city streets and fast highways
  • Check if the car sways to one side or the other 
  • Drive over speed bumps and humps to check suspension
  • Try accelerating fast if you can
  • Open and close all doors and trunks
  • Open and close all windows, including sunroof
  • Blast the A/C and the heat
  • Try listening to the radio, Bluetooth, auxiliary audio, etc. at various volume levels
  • Test windshield wipers
  • etc. 

It can be easy to forget about certain things at the moment, so physically write down a checklist for this, too. Think of as many important things as you can beforehand. 

Be a Smart Vehicle Shopper

For most people, cars are a necessary part of life, and sometimes we need a car at a moment’s notice. But buying a used car is often a smart way to make a solid investment.

Just make sure that you consider all the important aspects of the process. Ultimately, test driving a car and doing your homework on what you need and a car’s value are the most important tips. 

If you need more advice about buying used cars, check out this guide on the process!