If you're reading this article, you're likely in the market for a new set of wheels and are considering a used car. If you don't need the latest technology, are flexible with your wish list, and do the right due diligence during the shopping process, you can often get a great value for thousands of dollars less than you would buying new. And financially, you'll avoid new car depreciation.
There are some key differences between buying used versus new. They involve a number of factors including financing, insurance costs and the types of technology you'll find in older model year vehicles versus newer model ones. To determine where buying used is for you, let's consider some of the benefits and downsides.
If you're ready to go down the used car path, we're here to help. Buying a used vehicle versus a new one presents some unique challenges and you'll likely have a few questions. We created our used car buying guide to help you understand the process so that you get a great used vehicle and have a good experience.
Steps to Buying a Used Car
Determine Your Used Car Budget
Research Used Car Models
Finding Used Cars
Check Used Car History Reports
Contact Seller to Schedule Proper Test Drive
Get the Used Car Inspected
Calculate the Deal
Finalize Your Purchase
1. Determine Your Used Car Budget
Like buying a new car, you'll need to start with coming up with your budget. Be sure to take into account ownership costs which includes things like fuel and maintenance costs along with monthly car insurance.
2. Research Used Car Models
Next, make a list of features important to you and vehicles that meet both your criteria and your budget. Understand that in some cases, CarProUSA Radio show host Jerry Reynolds says used cars can cost more than new, based on a number of factors. Also, research reliability with these resources and look at safety ratings from NHTSA and IIHS. Our vehicle reviews are also a great source of information. Search CarProUSA Reviews here.
MORE >> Finding a $5,000 used vehicle
3. Finding Used Cars
Not all used cars are alike. We recommend buying factory-certified pre-owned when possible, since those vehicles go through a stringent factory inspection. While you likely pay a bit more, the peace of mind may be worth it to you. Some other types of used cars include dealership loaners and former rental cars. And finally, there are cars for sale by private sellers or at public auto auctions. Use the CarProUSA used car search tool link below to find vehicles at our certified dealers for an added layer of confidence.
4. Check the Used Car History Report
Once you pick a specific used vehicle, investigating its history should be an early part of the process. We recommend obtaining a vehicle history report. We discuss the two main history report providers, AutoCheck and CarFAX, here.
5. Contact Seller to Schedule Proper Test Drive
Whether you are buying a used car from a dealer or private party, next it's time to contact seller to schedule a proper test drive. A test drive is critical when buying a car to avoid what CarProUSA radio show host Jerry Reynolds calls "buyers remorse." It becomes even more essential when buying a used vehicle that has some miles on it.
6. Get the Used Car Inspected
If you like the used car after driving it, consider taking it to a third-party mechanic for a professional inspection.
Exception: If you are buying a Factory Certified Pre-Owned vehicle, the dealer has already completed a through a stringent factory required inspection process and the vehicle is also under warranty.
7. Calculate the Deal
So you've found the perfect car for you. The next step is to talk numbers with your salesperson (or private seller). Be aware that financing for used cars is different than new cars.
The Finance part of car buying can make many people nervous but you don't need to be. These tips will help you navigate the finance office. If you are financing through the car manufacturer's company, (like Honda, or Toyota), the finance department will run a credit check. Your credit score plays a role in determining your loan interest rate.
If you're buying a used car from a dealership, you'll also get a trade-in value for your vehicle if you have one. Here are tips on getting your car read for the trade-in process. Also keep in mind, timing your trade-in is crucial especially if you have a car that is 5 years old or newer.
MORE >> Evaluating Your Trade-In Options
8. Finalize Your Purchase
Now that you've come to the final selling price, factoring in any trade-in and loan interest rate, you are almost at the finish line. At this point, the salesperson or finance person will present you with optional add-ons like extended warranties, vehicle protection and maintenance plans. These items may increase your total purchase cost, but can save you money on repairs down the road.
Once you select or decline additional items, it's time to get everything formalized on paper. Take the time to read through the contract and look at everything listed, including dealer documentation fees, tax and title fees and anything else with a number next to it.
Question anything you do not understand.
Also make sure you get a "due bill" on anything promised to you, like work on the car, tinted windows, etc, in writing.
By following the advice you've read in our used car buying guide and purchasing from a CarProUSA Certified Dealer's used car inventory, you can be confident in your car buying experience. Enjoy your new (to you) ride!
Editorial Photo Credit: ZikG/Shutterstock