Buying any car, especially a used one can be a daunting task. There are so many different types, specifications, and technical jargon—it is easy to get confused and discouraged. In this article, I will provide a brief overview of what to look for and what to expect to make your use car buying process a smooth one. Before you even start looking for the car, do your homework. Clearly, you understand the importance of this step because you are here! Develop a clear picture of what you want out of your car. What is important to you may not be important to others. Is color a make or break factor for you (“I need a red car!”), gas mileage, brand, etc. —write it down. The second (but probably most important) step is to develop a budget—decide how much you are willing to spend on your car, then go back to your list of needs and decide what you are willing to compromise in order to stay within your budget. You may not be able to find that red car under your $13,000 budget; will you be willing to buy a blue one instead provided it has everything else you want?
Next, you will begin the actual process of searching for and buying your used car. Used cars are available in a variety of places: dealerships, “used car superstores”, and independent owners are just a few of your many options. Obviously, each method has its pros and cons. Dealerships and “used car superstores” tend to be listed by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) so you can learn if there was a problem with the dealership in the past, which would deter you from working with them. Knowing that they are rated positively or negatively can provide an element of security for you before purchasing your used car from them. Additionally, dealers and superstores must adhere to certain rules and codes put forth by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). While independent owners are not businesses and therefore cannot be listed by a consumer protection agency like the BBB, you can find owners in secure ways. Ask around to friends and see if they know anyone selling a car. Often, if you can buy a car from a friend of a friend, you feel more secure about the purchase.
After finding the car that you are interested in purchasing, carefully inspect the car for dents and scratches. Take the car for a test drive, see how it starts, how it drives, and listen for any suspicious sounds. One part that is often overlooked is the trunk—be sure to make sure that it is still in good condition as well. You do not want to purchase a car that is falling apart before you even get it home. Check under the car’s hood for any signs of damage or rust. If you are not sure what you are looking for (“Is that rusty or is that how it’s supposed to look?”), it might be beneficial for you to take someone with more experience with cars with you to inspect the car.
Finally, before purchasing the car, be sure to inquire about the car’s warranty. Is the car being offered “as-is”? That means there is no warranty. Do you have three days to decide if the car is working properly? Can you take it to a mechanic for inspection and if they find problems you can get your money back? These are all important questions to ask! You are paying your money for an investment—no request is too big. The worst they can say is no and you walk away from the car with all of your money.