6 Common Sense Steps to Buying a Used Vehicle
Many find the experience of buying a used car daunting. Whether you are looking for a vehicle in your local news paper, or researching cars identified in online ads, or even visiting your local dealership that specializes in used cars, we have provided a few steps that you can take to make your car buying experience more enjoyable.
Step 1: Determine your Budget
The number 1 step before embarking on your search for the car of your dreams is to determine how much you can afford to spend. It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to identify the car of your dreams and then find out later that you couldn't afford it. This is all about setting expectations for your own sanity. If this isn't an immediate need, set financial goals for yourself to save enough to cover the cost of the car of your dreams..
Step 2: Research
Research, research, research! You will need to determine what your requirements are in a car. As we all know, cars are not one-size fit all. What is it that you are looking for in a car? Some of the immediate considerations should be the dimensions inside and outside of the car. For example, tall people tend to require mid-size or large vehicles to account for more leg room.
If you have plans for using your car for side hustles, such as delivery, or becoming a uber driver as an example, you will want to ensure you have adequate space to support these additional requirements.
There's also the available features in the car that should be taken into consideration. There are standard features that we all look for, for example, working air-conditioning and heat, these features are a given depending on where you reside in the country. Other features you may want to consider are gas mileage, how efficient the vehicle is on gas
Step 3: Taking Action
Now that you have a clear understanding of what you are looking for in a vehicle and you have a clearly defined budget, the next step is to align your requirements to the vehicles within your price range. Create a list of vehicles that meet the criteria identified in your research. There are ample listings of used car advertising for sale on the internet, so this is an excellent starting point. If you find an offer that aligns with your requirement, go ahead and give the seller a call.
Some of the questions that you can ask are:
- What is the condition of the vehicle inside and outside?
- What is the mileage on the vehicle?
- Has the vehicle been in any accidents?
- Is the price negotiable?
- (for non-smokers) Was the previous owner a smoker
- For used car dealers, what warranty comes with the vehicle?
Step 4: Go for a Test Drive
Now that you have identified a few cars that meet most if not all of your requirements, take it for a test drive. Here is where you will validate the car in operational mode to validate whether the car has met your requirement. How comfortable is the car while seated behind the steering wheel? What about blind spots? Are there any? Are mirrors easy to adjust? Are you able to reach the controls on the dashboard comfortably? What about seat adjustments? While you are here, check the dashboard to see if there are any warning lights that stay on (check engine light, low oil warnings etc.)
And then there's sound quality. Close all of your windows and cut down the radio and listen. Do you hear anything unusual? Normal sounds from the tires rolling on the road and light engine noise is normal. Do all of the windows close properly to prevent any unnecessary external noise from infiltrating the inside space.
For inside air quality, cut on the air conditioning and test for how fast it takes to cool the interior space. After you have performed this test, switch to heating and perform the same testing, validating whether there are any unusual odors coming from the vent as well. For non-smokers, is there a hint of cigarette smoke in the air? It can be difficult to clean out the inside of a vehicle that was previously owned by a cigarette smoker.
Test your sound system, turn the radio to your favorite channel and turn the volume up to the level you would normally listen to your tunes at. Do not blast the music as this can cause unnecessary damage to property you do not yet own.
Step 5: Have the Car Inspected
It's always a good idea to get a car inspected before exchanging money for your potential new purchase. That being said, at the very least for the amateur inspector (that means you), the below are items you can visually inspect yourself:
- Most states require annual inspections of vehicles. Has this vehicle been recently inspected? If it recently failed, that is a red flag
- Check tires for tread. While you are at it, check for a spare tire
- Check to verify all lights are operational, headlights, parking lights, brake lights, signal lights
- Check to verify that there are no cracks or large chips in any of the windows
- Verify the horn is operational
- Open the hood, and check for worn belts
- Verify the engine isn't excessively dirty. Some dirt is normal, but if you see any liquids on the engine, this isn't normal.
- Examine the battery cables and clamps to see whether they're frayed or corroded.
- Check windshield wipers (these are easily replaces)
Step 6: Make It Happen
So you have decided this is the car for you. Now is the time to negotiate the price down for the vehicle. Don't ever feel like you have obligated yourself to buying the car at this point. You should always be willing to walk away from the deal if the terms don't meet your expectations. If you and the seller agree to the price and terms, before any money is transferred, be sure the seller has signed the title and/or registration over to you.
The last bit of advice, and this one is by law in most states, whether you buy from a private party or a dealer, make sure you have insurance coverage for the vehicle before you drive it away.
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