So you’ve decided to buy a vehicle but don’t want to pay the price for a new one. Buying used is now your plan, unpleasant as it may seem at first. You might have conflicting thoughts of while you’ll be saving yourself some money, will you be buying someone else’s headache? We’ve put together our ten tips on how to make your used car buying venture a safe and smoother experience.
#1 Determine the vehicle that’s right for you
Decide on the type and size of vehicle that will suit your lifestyle and what you can realistically afford to pay for it. Typically, a monthly car payment should not be more than 20 percent of your take-home pay.
#2 Short list and research the vehicles
There are a multitude of vehicle models out there. Create a short list of the models you like and focus on them. Researching too many different used vehicles can be overwhelming and a waste of your time. Focus on your choices and you’ll eventually come to know a good deal when you see one.
#3 Source the vehicle and check the price
There are various online resources for sourcing used vehicles. AutoTrader, classified ads, dealership lots, used car lots, Kijiji, eBay, Craigslist to name a few. For ease, many online catalogues will allow you to sort by car model, age, mileage, and price. Unfortunately an abundance of online information can be overwhelming and information can be contradictory or incorrect. Do your homework.
#4 Vehicle history reports tell the real story
You’ve narrowed your choices and are getting serious about a particular vehicle. It’s time to get a vehicle history report. Vehicle history reports can be purchased online by using the vehicle identification number (VIN). AutoCheck and Carfax are examples of companies that provide this service.
The vehicle history report provides you with important information. Most notably, whether the vehicle has been in a serious accident. You can also find out if it has been declared a total loss by an insurance company, whether there is a lien, or if the odometer has been re-adjusted. If a history report isn’t favorable, walk away.
#5 Contact the seller
Once you decide on the vehicle you want to target, speak with the seller before arranging to see the it. This establishes your relationship with the seller and they may mention things that were not communicated in the ad, saving you some wasted time. Avoid discussing the price specifics until you have seen the vehicle.
#6 Take the test drive
A test drive will reveal many things about the vehicle’s condition. Simulate your normal driving habits to check the steering, brakes, shocks, and wheel alignment. If you are a highway driver, test the vehicle at a higher speed on the highway. If you drive hills, test the vehicle on slopes. Do your test drive in the daylight hours and, if possible, take a family member or friend along with you.
If you’re feeling confident about the vehicle, ask the seller for maintenance records. Be cautious if the vehicle has major rebuilds (transmission, engine) or has been in a fender bender.
#7 Have the vehicle inspected
A pre-purchase inspection can save you money (and headaches) in the long run. It determines the cosmetic and mechanical condition of the vehicle. Source a trusted mechanic who can pinpoint existing deficiencies and highlight any future issues with the vehicle. This information will be helpful for price negotiation leverage.
Things you can check yourself are; excessive wear of the upholstery, steering wheel, seats, and brake/accelerator pedals. New pedals can be a sign that the car has had a lot of use. Check that the VIN number matches both the VIN on the vehicle permit and the history report. If the seller is opposed to an independent car inspection, walk away.
#8 Negotiate your price
This can be the unnerving part of the buying process. Open with an offer at a comfortable, reasonable price. Decide beforehand what you are willing to pay and stick to it. Don’t feel pressured.
#9 Seal the deal
Ensure payments are finalized and the title and registration are transferred to you. Pay cash with a hand written signed receipt or provide a cashier’s check. Make certain your insurance is in place for the vehicle before you drive it away. If you are purchasing from a dealership, review the purchase contract for any additional fees that might be incurred.
#10 Legal requirements
Rules governing vehicle registration and licensing vary in jurisdictions. Check the requirements in your area. Some jurisdictions require the vehicle to remain registered in the seller’s name until the vehicle transfer has been completed at the government offices. Even if a vehicle transfer has not been completed, you can still be legally responsible as the owner in the event of an infraction involving the vehicle.
Some jurisdictions have a “plate-to-owner registration” relationship, which means the licence plates stay with the seller and not the vehicle you purchased.
Buying a used vehicle can be a stressful, but also a rewarding, money saving experience.
Buying a brand new vehicle is not necessarily always the best choice. Save yourself some depreciation money and consider buying used. Simply do your homework, inspections, and follow your gut.
This blog is written for the used car buyer. We have also written our top ten tips for anyone selling a car privately. Read about it here .
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