10 Frugal Used Car Buying Tips for Savvy Shoppers

Used Car Buying

Sometimes, buying a new car is out of the question. Or, you don’t want to watch the value of your new investment depreciate the minute you drive it off the showroom floor. That’s okay because buying a used car may be easier and more affordable.

It’s a win-win!

But, there are a few things you should know before plunging into the used car territory, especially if you’re not buying from a dealer.

If you need some simple used car buying tips to help you along the way, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’re outlining 10 simple steps to heed on the side of caution and get you on the road. Keep reading to learn more.

Used Car Buying Tips in Ten Simple Steps

An article about buying a used car wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the pros and cons.

Used cars are less expensive than new vehicles and they’re already broken in. Not to mention that the financing will cause you far fewer headaches. But, on the other hand, you must know what you’re buying before you spend your hard-earned cash.

These tips should help you alleviate any mishaps along the way in your journey to purchasing a used vehicle:

1. Understanding How Much You Can Afford

The first thing you need to do before purchasing anything as big or expensive as a new vehicle is to figure out your finances. It’s never a good idea to buy a car if you can’t afford the payments because you could ruin your credit or worse, the car could get repossessed and you’ll be in a bad predicament.

Calculate how much you make every month and then subtract your monthly bills from that number. Experts recommend that you don’t spend more than 10 percent of your monthly take-home pay on car payments. Don’t forget that you’ll have to factor in the cost of insurance and maintenance.

2. Figuring Out Which Vehicle Is Right for You

Once you understand how much you can afford, it’s time to start shopping. Sort of.

The first thing you want to do is find a vehicle or a few vehicles that align with what you need most. If you’re single, maybe a sports car is in your sight. If you have a family, on the other hand, a small to mid-size SUV may be more suitable.

3. Checking the Price Tags

Before you decide which vehicle is the right fit, you’ll also need to browse the prices on those vehicles. So, that fancy muscle car you had your eye on has everything you want and need, but it’s more than 10% of your take-home income. That one is not going to work.

Likewise, if you find a small SUV that fits your budget but the price is way below your spending limit, why not consider that mid-size SUV instead?

4. Finding Used Cars for Sale Near You

Once you have found the vehicle and price tag that works for you, it’s time to start looking in your local area for dealers and/or private sellers that have what you need. The easiest way to buy a used car is through a private seller because you can avoid mark-up costs involved with the dealer, but you can always negotiate a good deal later if you find a car that you want at the local car lot.

5. Checking the Vehicle Report

Before you commit to buying anything you should ask for the vehicle’s VIN so that you can check the vehicle history report.  This report will detail the vehicle history including previous accidents or any issues that may have been involved with the title on the vehicle previously. You can also see how many owners the car has been through which may give you a better idea of how well it has been maintained.

6. Contacting the Seller

Sometimes, you can get those previous details online, but if you are having a hard time locating specifics, you’ll need to contact the seller. Besides, if you’re ready to close the deal on the vehicle of your choice, you’ll need to work with the seller to negotiate terms and close the deal.

7. The Test Drive

Don’t forget to take the car for a test drive. You should drive on busy streets and the highway to see how the vehicle handles in different conditions. Make sure to use the brakes and listen for any sounds that may indicate a problem with the engine.

You’ll also need to make sure all of the mechanisms on the interior of the vehicle are in good working order like the air conditioner and heater and any upgrades such as heated seats or navigation. It may be cold outside, but you don’t want to find out the air conditioner doesn’t work next summer!

8. Don’t Forget to Have the Vehicle Inspected

If your dealer or the private owner will allow it, you should take your vehicle to be inspected by a local mechanic. During your test drive is the best time to do this and the seller should not disagree to allow you to do this. If they do, you should think about considering other buying options as this could indicate that they are trying to hide something important.

9. Negotiating a Fair Deal

Once everything lines up and it feels good, you can start talking about pricing. Of course, you already know the market value from your research on pricing so don’t hesitate to ask for a fair deal. Most dealers have a mark-up of at least 25% and sometimes up to 45% so there should be plenty of wiggle room.

10. Signing on the Dotted Line

As we mentioned, financing a used car is generally easier than financing a new vehicle. As long as you can get approved by the bank or lender, you should be able to sign the paperwork and take your new used car home the same day.

Put Some Gas in the Tank and Roll Out

By following these simple used car buying tips, you’ll be on your way to cruising down the road in your new ride right away! Don’t forget to call the insurance company to update your coverage and get to the DMV as soon as possible to update those records and you’ll be free to go wherever your wheels take you.

If you found this post helpful, we encourage you to take a peek at the rest of our blog.