7 Tips to Buy a Used Car

happy family at dealership buying a used car

Going for a used car rather than a new one is a great way to save on transportation. Sometimes you can even get more car for your money! If the question “Is buying a used car safe?” is running through your head, rest assured that it is, but you need to do extra leg work. Here are a few tips for buying a used car and getting a good deal for it.

1. Prepare a Budget

Doing your homework before stepping into the used-car lot is essential. If you are asking yourself how much does it really cost to buy a used car, consider that it is not only the price of the car but also insurance, gas, taxes, and maybe a few repairs down the road. 

If you realize that you will need credit after crunching the numbers, you should probably talk to your bank or credit union and get pre-approved for a car loan.

2. Think About Your Needs 

Ask yourself why you need a car. Do you need to commute daily? How much space do you need? You might run into an amazing deal for the convertible of your dreams only to realize it is not a good fit for your lifestyle a couple of weeks later. To avoid that, figure out what type and size car you need.

3. Make a Wish List of the Best Used Cars

Write down models with a good track record that fit your budget. Websites such as Edmunds and Consumer Reports offer comprehensive reviews and rankings by type of vehicle that will help you find the best options out there. 

You can also get an idea of their average market price by checking the Kelley Blue Book, which will help you know what a reasonable price to pay is. Two- and three-year-old cars are often the best options as they are still in pretty good shape. They might even still be within warranty.

4. Start the Car Hunt

Browse the online listings for the vehicles on your list and locate used car lots in your area. Most dealerships have a used car lot where you can find Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars with a factory warranty that backs their condition. CPO cars offer a higher used car value, but they are also a bit more expensive than what can be found elsewhere. The only problem is that there are not many CPO car options.

5. Ask for Papers and Run a Background Check 

happy young woman driving her used car

If you are asking yourself, “What is the best thing to do if buying a used vehicle?” the best answer is usually to ask for paperwork. When checking out an online listing, ask the seller to produce a car service history and registration document. 

Remember to write down the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to get a vehicle history report online. This report tells you key information about the car, such as whether it was involved in a major accident. 

6. Ask for a Test-Drive

The best way to know if a car is a good fit is to drive it. Not only will you see for yourself how it handles, but you will also identify potential dealbreakers such as funny smells and noises. 

If you like a car, you might want to have it inspected by an independent mechanic. This will cost you a few dollars but can save you a headache if something is wrong with the vehicle.

7. Negotiate the Price and Reach a Deal

Once you have decided to move on and buy a used car, you need to negotiate a deal. Whether it is at a dealership lot or a private sale, you need to keep in mind that sellers often mark up the prices to maximize their profit. 

Researching the price beforehand will tell you whether you are getting a fair deal. When you finally buy, read the documents carefully before signing. If you are dealing with a private sale, get a bill of sale signed and the car’s title (which you should legally transfer to your name). 

Once you close the deal, the most important thing to do is find the right car insurance. Start your free California quote with Cost-U-Less today and find out how much you can save. You can get it online, over the phone, or at one of our offices near you.