You need a new vehicle, but maybe you don’t have the money for a brand new car. Or maybe you don’t want to absorb the depreciation cost of buying new. Either way, a used vehicle can save you some money, and if you shop smart, you won’t compromise quality or dependability. So how do you shop smartly? If you follow our guide to choosing the best used car, you’ll end up with a great car at a great price.
- Assess Your Needs
The first thing you should ask yourself is what do you need in a car? We all want reliable transportation, but what else? For some people, a premium interior is important. Others might value power or towing capacity. Cargo space might be something important, or perhaps it’s the kids’ soccer team you need to tote around.
You might try listing what you don’t like in your current car. From there, create a list of those features you want or need. These two lists will help you winnow out those cars you won’t have to look over. Having a list will also prevent you from being sold a car you don’t really want. Don’t let anyone tell you this or that doesn’t matter. If it’s on your list, it matters.
- Do Your Research
If you’ve assessed your needs, you’ve probably narrowed down the type of vehicle you want. As you identify potential cars, you’ll want to research them. Finding out how much a car is worth before you enter negotiations is important. You’ll also want to get a vehicle history report to see if it was ever involved in an accident. A car that’s been in an accident isn’t worth as much as one that hasn’t, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t still a good car. As long as repairs were done correctly, it should give you similar reliability and save you some money.
- Never Fall In Love
One of the biggest mistakes car buyers make is falling in love with the idea of a car. Maybe you’ve always wanted a convertible or perhaps a muscle car. Maybe it’s that off-road warrior truck you’ve dreamed about for years. Resist the temptation to limit yourself to your dream car. This doesn’t mean you can’t look for your dream car. By all means, have at it. Just remember that you are bringing in an emotional aspect to a buying decision that will impact your ability to examine the car and bargain for a fair price rationally.
Worse than targeting a specific car is finding one but then learning that it isn’t exactly right. Perhaps it has too many miles on it or hasn’t been appropriately maintained. If you’ve already imagined yourself in it, you are far more likely to accept these shortcomings to realize your dream of owning the car. Again, you’ve put yourself in a bad position from the start, which leads us to number four on our list.
- Be Prepared To Walk Away
Before you check out a used car, imagine yourself saying no and walking away. By imagining this scenario playing out, it becomes easier to do if necessary. If anything about the deal doesn’t feel right, walking away might be the best decision, so don’t be afraid to do that.
- Test Drive the Car
You should always test drive a car before you buy it. A seller should be happy to let you. If not, walk away. When you test drive the car, you want to take it through its proverbial paces. You want to see how it handles. Is the steering responsive? How does it accelerate? You’ll want to test the brakes, too. You should listen for odd sounds, like knocking from the engine or squealing from the brakes. Strange noises could be a sign of mechanical issues.
While you’re driving around town, test out the in-vehicle systems for functionality. Does the radio work? Is the air conditioner blowing cold air? Do all the power door locks and windows work correctly? Are the seats comfortable? Some features might be less than what you want or need, but a seller might not want to fix a problem if it doesn’t add value to the sale price. If a power window sticks, it might not be worth fixing, but it shouldn’t have you automatically cross the car off your list. You can use these problems as bargaining chips to negotiate a better price.
- Have a Mechanic Inspect the Vehicle
Most people don’t understand how car systems work, especially on newer models. You should request to take the vehicle for a few hours to have your mechanic check it out. An honest seller won’t object, so if they say no, you should walk away. Your mechanic can do a thorough inspection of the engine, transmission, and other components and give you an honest opinion of the car’s worth.
- Understand Mileage as It Relates to Age
Most people want a car with low mileage. On the surface, low mileage makes the car more valuable. The car has the potential to last longer and is usually in better shape. But low mileage isn’t always a good thing. The age of a car also impacts its value, so which is more important?
The answer is both. On average, a car drives 15,000 miles per year. You can take a 5-year-old car with 75,000 miles at its age value. A 5-year-old car with 90,000 miles can be considered over-used and have less value than its age might suggest. Conversely, a 5-year-old car with 60,000 miles is under-used and worth more.
At Huffines CDJR Plano, we understand the importance of finding the right car for the right price. We have one of the largest selections of pre-owned vehicles in the region. We invite you to browse our inventory online or visit our showroom. We are conveniently located at 4500 West Plano Parkway in Plano, Texas. One of our friendly, knowledgeable staff will be happy to answer any of your questions and let you test drive your favorite pre-owned vehicle.
Image via Flickr by State Farm