The Five Most Important Steps to Buying the Best Used Car

Buying the Best Used Car

If you are buying a used car, you may already know the drawbacks. Financing is often more expensive for a used car, cutting into any savings you expect to enjoy.  Furthermore, many used cars don’t have enough miles left before something major fails. Yet there are ways to get the most out of a used car if you know the five steps to take before you sign on the line.

Step One: Stay Open to Anything

This does not mean you will buy any car you find.  It means you will not limit yourself to one brand or even one type of vehicle.  By keeping your mind open, you are more likely to discover a good deal.  If you narrow your options, especially to one style or brand, you are less likely to find a good price on the right car.

Step Two: Analyze Your Needs

Many times, we shop for what we wish we had.  The red SUV is prettier than the white one.  The sports car that barely has a backseat is more appealing than the spacious hatchback.  A gas-guzzling ute is sexier than a modest commuter car with good gas mileage.  

When we go shopping, we need to be immune to these types of temptations.  To do that, we need a complete list of expectations.  Maybe you can’t compromise on that. Maybe you need a full-size pickup for work or a 9-seat kiddie hauler.  However, most people have more modest needs.

If you are one of those, what size do you really need to be happy?  Perhaps you are thinking in terms of cargo space for your camping gear or backseat legroom for your teenagers. Beyond size, you should make a list of must-have features and a list of wants.  This list will help guide you through the thicket that is the used car market.  

Step Three: Learn All You Can

You are open to anything, and you have narrowed down your expectations.  Now learn everything you can about used cars that fit these categories. It won’t take you more than a few hours to read up on similar used cars.  You want an independent journalistic source for the reviews.  Many of them have comparison tools where you can look at specs from several similar vehicles at the same time.  As you read, look for advice about which model years were duds, which model years were packed with value, and which models are simply better or worse than the competition.

Step Four: Finding Financing

When getting used car financing, you don’t necessarily want to do it at a dealership.  If you need a bad credit car loan, you need to be careful not to get roped into a loan that is more expensive than you can afford. This type of loan may be spread out over a long period of time. This can work against you, leaving you with loan payments even after your used car has had to be junked.

The best way to get a good loan is to use a well-established lender, such as your credit union or to go to a well-established dealership.  If you stray into a used car dealership that doesn’t have new cars as well, there’s a good chance that their financing system is weighted heavily in their favor.

Step Five:  Choose Dealership Wisely

With online inventories, you can start watching for the dealerships with the best cars for you.  It may be tempting to rush out if you see a good deal.  However, many shoppers go for that car only to find it doesn’t exist. Instead, don’t go to a dealership until you identify at least three vehicles that fit your criteria.  

Once there, make sure you test drive those three vehicles and more, if they will let you.  You want to demonstrate that they will have to work for your business. You don’t want to be a pushover and buy the first one you spot.  On the other hand, you do want to stay open to a deal when you find it. If you have studied the market, as suggested in step three, you are more likely to identify a good buy.

If you are that rare person who is thinking ahead, you could identify a salesperson you feel is trustworthy at a dealership that sells new and used cars. You can ask them to stay in touch about good deals as they come up.  This may allow you to find a one-owner, low-mileage vehicle that may be old but is affordable and more likely to run for years to come.

Whatever you do, don’t be pushed over. A used car is still quite costly, and you deserve to get a good deal on a car that will truly earn its keep.