Buying a used car is not a decision that should be made lightly. While they typically cost less than new cars of the same make, model and year, some used vehicles may have underlying problems. And purchasing one of these lemons could leave buyers stranded on the side of the road.
1. Define Budget
The first step in buying a used car is to define a budget. According to USA Today, the average sale price of used cars sold in 2014 was $15,900. Whether a buyer is willing to spend more or less, though, he or she should first define their budget.
2. Determine Needs
Buyers should consider what exactly they want or need in a used car. Considering that roughly 1.3 million people die each year from vehicle crashes, many buyers prefer cars with safety features like airbags, collision detection, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control.
3. Start Searching
After defining a budget and determining their needs, buyers should start their search for a used car. There are dozens of places that list used cars for sale, some of which include local classified ads, Craigslist and Autotrader. Alternatively, buyers may have success visiting local car dealerships.
4. Reach Out to Seller
The next step in buying a used car is to contact the seller. Time is of the essence; the longer a buyer waits to contact the seller, the greater the chance that someone else will buy it. So, buyers should contact the seller, preferably by phone, immediately after finding a used car that meets their criteria. During this call, the buyer should arrange a meeting to inspect and test drive the car.
5. Look Under the Hood
It’s always a good idea to look under the hood before buying a used car. If the engine bay is dirty with spilled fluids — oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, etc. — the buyer should consider a different vehicle.
6. Test Drive
Assuming everything looks fine under the hood, the buyer should test drive the car. This will give him or her the opportunity to see how the car drives and whether it contains functional problems. If the vehicle slips when changing gears, for example, it may have a failing transmission, which can cost thousands of dollars to repair.
7. Negotiate Price
Even if a seller lists the used car for a specific price, he or she may accept a lower offer. Therefore, buyers should always offer a lower price first. The seller may still reject this offer, but he or she may also make a counteroffer that’s lower than the car’s original listing price.
Buying a used car doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Following these seven tips can help buyers navigate this otherwise complicated process, putting them behind the wheel of a great car.