Good prep work makes buying a used car a painless experience

6 Things You Should Do Before Buying a Used Car

Used cars can be a good alternative to pricey new models, but the used car market brings a wide array of things to be wary of. A dealer may be hiding payments or car history – anything to make an easy dollar off an unsuspecting buyer. Here are six things to make sure you do if you want to make a smart used car purchase.

  1. Check the car history. 
    A car's history can contain important information for anyone who is looking to purchase the vehicle. From previous damage to engine trouble, this data can help you avoid buying a problematic automobile. Keep an especially sharp eye on odometer readings and any engine trouble when reading the history; some dishonest dealerships will try to hide this information from a buyer.
  2. Look closely at the car.
    If possible, have an independent mechanic take a look at the car. If not, simply make sure you look closely at the condition of the vehicle yourself. You will want to check things like the tires, fluids, and brakes. Shaking tires can reveal loose connections, and fluids should be at least somewhat clear as a sign of a healthy engine. Brakes need to be in strong and working order; if they aren’t, a dealership may try to hide this from any potential buyers.
  3. Double-check the contract. 
    Dealerships may try to add hidden warranties and fees into the contract. Be sure to read carefully over any paperwork that you may be given. Only pay for what needs to be paid for. If you notice that a dealer has put in unnecessary fees and refuses to change them, it would be wise to choose a different dealership.
  4. Understand dealer policies and warranties. 
    Have a thorough understanding of any return policy the dealership may offer. In the chance that you buy a vehicle that has something wrong, you want to be able to return the vehicle instead of being stuck with the purchase. Hidden restrictions on returns might change the cases in which you are able to send a vehicle back to the dealership. Additionally, extra warranties may be tucked into the fine print. This might include things like fabric and paint protection. Negotiate and only pay for what you need.
  5. Know your price range. 
    When looking at used cars, know what loans and rates you have been approved for beforehand. Don't let a dealership talk you into a rate that ends up losing you money from the deal. If possible, negotiate price and payments over the phone instead of at the dealership. Be sure to know the difference between paying in cash or an installment plan. You want to know what you want in a car and use your price range to get the most for your money.
  6. Take your time.
    This is one of the most important things about used cars. The dealership may try to rush you through a decision, but be sure about your purchase before agreeing to anything. There is nothing wrong with coming back the next day to finalize a purchase, and you shouldn't be rushed when making such a big purchase anyway. Rushing through buying a new car can lead to hidden payments or increased rates digging into your wallet. A good way to take your time is to do plenty of comparison shopping by taking a look at deals from multiple dealerships. This will help you to find the best deal for you.
Last Updated: October 19, 2017