Shopping for a used car can be stressful. It is much easier when you do some research and know exactly what you want before going to a dealer or searching online. Here are some tips to help you shop for a used car.
Step 1: Determine Your Budget… and don’t budge from it
Buying a car is a large financial commitment whether you pay cash or finance the car. If you are looking to pay cash, set the maximum budget that you are willing to pay and stick with it. If you are financing a car, this will look a little different. First, you should determine the downpayment you are willing to make, then from that, calculate what monthly payment you can afford. There are loan calculators out there that can help you with the math. Once that is figured out stick with it! You might also want to do some research on different financing options.
Step 2: Build a List of Target Cars
Everybody has their dream car, but if you take a minute to think about it, your dream car might not be practical. Match your target list of cars to your needs. Do you need a car that fits a family? Do you need something with a lot of cargo space? Do you need a truck that can pull a trailer? Do you want all-wheel drive for those snowy winter months? Or is safety your priority? Once you answer all those questions you can narrow the search down to a few makes and models.
Step 3: Check the Reliability of these Cars
Once you have narrowed your search, you should check the reliability of the cars to narrow it further. This would include looking at the total cost of ownership of the car. Is the car expensive to maintain? Do others have major problems with their cars? Are there constantly parts being recalled? These are important when considering this sort of investment. Last, check if the car holds its value over time.
Step 4: Locate Cars in Your Area
In today’s world, there are so many ways you can do this. You can drive by dealerships, check online, and even search personal selling networks like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. If you are looking for a car that is Certified Pre Owned (CPO) then looking at dealer websites is going to be your best bet.
Step 5: Check the Vehicle History
Vehicle history reports are relatively easy to get these days. You can access them online, although you often have to pay for a detailed report. As long as you know the VIN of the car, you can at least get a quick overview of the history. You want to watch out for Salvage Titles which likely indicate that the vehicle was totaled by an insurance company or the odometer was rolled back, not representing how many miles are actually on the car. You can also see how many previous owners there were and where the car originated from.
Step 6: Call the Seller
Whether you’re looking at a car from a private seller or a dealership, it is always wise to give the seller a call. This gives you the opportunity to establish a relationship with the seller and ask questions that you likely can’t find answers to online. You can ask private sellers why they are parting with the car. You can ask dealers if the car is still in stock. If you like what you hear on the phone, you can schedule an appointment to see the car. Be sure to schedule your appointment during daylight hours so you can get a good look at the car.
Step 7: Time for a Test Drive
When you get to the test drive, before you get in the car and drive off, give the car a good once over. You obviously want to look for cosmetic damage, but check that all the doors open and that the trunk and hood open properly. Once you have done that, it is time to get in the driver’s seat.
Pick a route that has everything, from highway speeds, hills, curves, and rough pavement if you can. Be sure to drive with the radio off. You’ll want to be able to hear for any weird sounds coming from the car, and you can always test the radio when you get back. Pay attention to the ergonomics of the vehicle. Can you reach and see everything you need to? It is important to check for blind spots too. Does the car have enough power and does the steering feel comfortable? Is the braking responsive? And last, does the car have any mechanical issues? You don’t have to be a mechanic to tell if there is a serious issue with the car.
When you get back from the test drive, this is your opportunity to check things like the radio, legroom in the back seat, cargo space, and other important things like Bluetooth connection.
Step 8: Negotiate the Best Price
You have done your research, you know what you can afford, and you now have a better feel for what the car is worth. A good starting point to negotiation is to point out areas the vehicle might need some improvement. A good example of this would be if the tires will need to be replaced soon. Then mention the book value of the car and ask for a price below that that would allow you to get new tires. Be sure to be reasonable and in the ballpark. The worst they can say is “no” to which you might respond by meeting in the middle.
Negotiating can make people nervous, so here are some additional tips for a successful negotiation:
- Don’t negotiate by monthly payment if you have a pre-approved loan. As far as they know, its a cash payment to them, and you’re paying the lender back, not the seller.
- Don’t get trapped in an office. The best thing you can do is walk around the lot and talk. This levels the playing field a bit because the salesperson is used to being behind a desk with all the authority. Now you are both out of your element and hopefully, this helps you get the price you want.
- Remember to ask about fees before settling on a number. Usually, the final number includes fees, but make sure you and the salesperson are on the same page.
- Always be ready to walk. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and it is perfectly okay to say “thanks, but no thanks.”
Step 9: Buy
You’re almost done. Here is when you sign the papers and buy your used car. A dealership will offer extended warranties on CPO vehicles, and if it is important to you, you might want to consider it. Be sure to read the contract thoroughly before signing. If you are buying from a private seller, make sure the seller has the proper paperwork to transfer ownership over to you. It is always wise to ask for the seller to sign the title over to you before there is an exchange of money. Last, you will want to make sure that you have insurance before you drive away.
Step 10: Enjoy!
You did it! You purchased a used car. Now the only thing you have left to do is enjoy it. You did all the research, you hopefully got the car you wanted, and you got the deal you deserve. Be happy and enjoy your car!
If you are looking to buy a used car, Peak Kia has a wide selection of pre-owned vehicles for you to consider. Take a look at our inventory today.