There was a time when buying a used car was typically a hit or miss affair. It wasn’t a question of finding the best used car, or a car with the least amount of miles on it. No, your chief concern was finding a car which could get you from point A to point B for the lowest cost.
But there are numerous factors involved with buying a used car these days, however. Not only has technology grown more sophisticated, but options have grown significantly more varied. Online purchases. Dealer purchases. Even purchases made sight unseen. And if all you’re looking for is a good price on an efficient vehicle, you may find yourself confused about some of the options available to you.
Unfortunately, there are just as many unscrupulous sellers out there as there are dealers. Luckily, with a little bit of strategy and foresight you can learn to distinguish a great deal from a lemon. If you’re currently looking or simply curious, here’s some tips to keep in mind to find the best used car.
Find Out The Market Value
The average depreciation in value of a used car is typically twenty to thirty percent during the first year of ownership. Which means that if a dealer is trying to sell you a three year old vehicle at only fifteen percent off of its original asking price, you’re being taken for a ride. Don’t be fooled. Use a guide like Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book to establish your used car’s value before believing a dealer when they claim they’re offering you a “great deal.”
What Condition Is The Car In?
Inspecting a used car is nowhere near the same as test driving a new vehicle. One of the common mistakes first time used car buyers make is assuming a car’s value is entirely dependent on mileage. It isn’t. Everything from a car’s interior maintenance to even minor damage from rust or dents should be considered when calculating a used vehicle’s value. How comfortable of a fit is it for you? How old is the vehicle and how many miles does it currently have? Does it come with its original factory warranty? Don’t just settle for a poorly maintained car simply to save a few dollars. You may find yourself coming back for another vehicle in less than a year.
What Condition Is The Engine In?
Ultimately, engine performance is the litmus test of a decent used car. A dirty engine could indicate bad maintenance, or simply debris that can be easily cleaned out. Check to see if there’s actually any oil on the engine. This could indicate leakage which could cost several thousand dollars to repair. More importantly, consider the engine’s timing belt. If possible, look for a car with a non interference engine. Replacing the timing belt will be substantially less expensive in the long run should it break.
Review The Car’s History
In particular, the car’s full service history, or FSH. Many buyers will end up using an online service like Carfax to order an FSH, although most used dealerships should be able to provide you with one. At the very least, have the vehicle identification number (VIN) and the license plate on hand. While frequent inspections indicate proper maintenance, a history of extensive repairs could mean a serious problem for you down the road. A reputable dealer will be honest and upfront about the repair history. If your instincts tell you to be cautious, that’s a pretty good sign you may have a lemon on your hands.
Consider Financing Options And Your Own Personal Budget
If you wind up having to finance a used car at 42 months, consider a cheaper alternative. A used car should ideally cost you no more than 20 percent of your take home pay each month. If possible, try to put as much down payment as you can on the vehicle—even if it means negotiating with a dealer. You’ll find that many of them are willing to stretch their own terms to accommodate new customers. When in doubt, auto loan calculators can help you make the most out of your budget.
Trust Your Mechanic
Does that seem like a contradiction? It shouldn’t. You’re purchasing a used car “as is”—which means you’re basing your purchase on good faith your dealer will be reputable. And a VIN check may not even be thorough enough. Think of your vehicle as an investment, one which should be maximized in order to get the best return. It may cost extra to have a mechanic inspect the vehicle prior to purchasing, but ultimately you’ll find the rates more than reasonable. Particularly if you’re looking to get the most out of your used car.
Learn To Negotiate
There’s a popular misconception that used car dealers are inflexible when it comes to negotiating the price of a vehicle. But the truth is that most are in the business to help consumers, not fleece them. And no reliable dealer will sacrifice their reputation simply to make a sale. If a dealer refuses to negotiate at all, look elsewhere. They’re there to work for you and with you, not against you. And if they’re not working with you?
Neither will their selections.
At Carfect, we know how difficult it can be to find the best used car. That’s why we offer one of the widest selections in the greater Chicago area. If you need help in finding the vehicle that’s right for you, visit us today at Carfect.