Shopping for a used car is like going on a treasure hunt. There are amazing deals out there, and with the emergence of the Internet as a car shopping tool, you have every chance of finding a good deal on a car that meets your needs and fits your budget.
There are plenty of incentives to buy used instead of new: It will save you money on car insurance, registration, taxes and depreciation, which is the loss in a car’s value due to wear and tear over time. It also makes sense because cars have never been more reliable. It’s not unusual for some vehicles to be trouble-free for well over 100,000 miles.
Before we go into detail, here’s an overview of the steps you’ll need to take to buy a used car:
- Set your budget. Decide how much you can spend on a car and how you’re going to pay for it.
- Choose the right car. Pick the right model based on your needs.
- Check reliability and ownership costs. Choose a car that’s less likely to break down — and won’t break the bank.
- Locate good used cars. Search online classifieds or do it the old-fashioned way, by walking the car lot.
- Price the cars. Use pricing guides and find out what experts say the car you’ve chosen is worth.
- Check the vehicle history report. Use the car’s vehicle identification number to see its history.
- Contact the seller. Save time by calling the seller and asking questions before you take a look.
- Go on a test drive. Decide if this is the right car for you and if it’s in good shape.
- Negotiate the best price. Use the information you’ve gathered in your car search to agree to a fair price.
- Close the deal. Whether you’re on the car lot or buying from a neighbor, you have to handle the payment and paperwork correctly.
So that’s the basic outline. Now, let’s get started. (If it isn’t a used car you want after all, check our guide on how to buy a new car.)