A used car can save buyers thousands of dollars over the cost of driving a brand new one off the lot. However, when shopping for cars buyers need to be vigilant and prepared beforehand. Knowing how to buy a used car can help you realize big savings. If that’s not incentive enough, consider that a used car will also save you money on auto insurance, registration, taxes and depreciation loss on the car’s value over time.
Why buy a used car? These days used cars are more reliable. With routine maintenance like regularly changing the oil or brake pads, many can last 100,000 to 150,000 miles and more. That’s why finding the right car can save you a lot of money and headaches. Before going shopping, buyers should be aware of scams and pitfalls to avoid, what negotiation tips to use, and above all to be prepared. Here are a few tips to consider when used car shopping.
1) Always Check the Vehicle History
Before you purchase a car, make sure that you check its vehicle history on sites such as Carfax or Auto Check. One of the biggest scams by unscrupulous dealers is selling a salvaged used car that’s been declared totaled. Vehicle history reports are one of the best ways to check the track record of any used vehicle. Vehicle history reports provide customers with a record based on the vehicle’s serial number (VIN). Every vehicle’s history is stored in a database linked to its VIN (vehicle identification number). Both services provide a wealth of information on vehicle history.
The reports show title records from each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. They include salvage and insurance total loss records and accident records. These reports will indicate items of public record, such as vehicle title branding, lemon law buybacks, odometer fraud, and product recall. The report may indicate minor or moderate collision damage or improper vehicle maintenance. An attempt to identify vehicles that have been previously owned by hire car rental agencies, police and emergency services or taxi fleets is also made.
2) Price Shop Cars
Once you have located several cars for sale that interest you, take the time to look them up in pricing guides such as NADA or Kelley Blue Book. These guides provide buyers with fairly accurate estimates of the current market value of the cars they are considering to purchase. Value is determined by assessing its condition, age, mileage and other features. Knowing the price allows you to negotiate effectively with the dealer.
3) Be On the Lookout for Scams
Whether it’s fast-talking deals or a long list of guarantees and warranties, always be wary of possible scams. Two big ones are the odometer scam and VIN swap. The odometer scam is one of the classic scams by used car dealers. This scam is when the vehicle’s odometer has been tampered with to lower the mileage. Though it is much more difficult these days to lower mileage, it can still be done.
Another scam is to swap out a vehicle identification number from another car—one that may have not been declared totaled. Always match the VIN number to the registration and title information. In both cases, odometer scams and VIN swapping scams, a vehicle history report will provide the actual mileage and link the correct VIN to the correct registration.
4) Get Everything Writing
When purchasing a car, make sure all warranties, agreements, and promises are in writing. Written documentation is the only way to ensure the dealer fulfills promises of free services or repairs. This avoids any confusion or misconception down the road.
5) Choose Your Time Wisely
When looking to get the best price on a used car, the day of the week and time of the month do matter. Never shop on weekends, the busiest time for car shoppers. Dealers won’t budge much on price when the showroom is filled. Try shopping on a Monday or Tuesday. When no one is around dealers are much more receptive to negotiations, and that’s usually by Tuesday afternoon. The last Tuesday afternoon of the month or even the quarter is the best possible time to visit a dealership. Though Tuesdays are the slowest days of the week, monthly and quarterly sales goals are in your favor, too.
6) Learn How to Negotiate
Being prepared is the key to successfully negotiate a car deal. Focus on a specific vehicle, know its pricing information and have it printed out to show the dealer. You can be courteous, but having that price in hand means you can walk away anytime from the deal. As mentioned, Tuesday is the best day for shopping and negotiating.
7) Test Drive
The test drive allows you to decide if the car is worth buying. Select a route that includes a stretch of highway to check the acceleration, and then drive up and down hills, around curves, and over rough pavement to see how well the car handles and responds. Check the brakes along the way, and shut off the radio to listen for any unusual noises or vibrations.
Now that you’re armed with how to buy a used car check out our extensive inventory of quality used vehicles.