These Tips Will Help You Avoid Many Pitfalls that First-time Used Car Buyers Make!
There’s nothing like the feeling of owning your own car. It gives you a sense of power and a feeling of accomplishment to know that you have worked hard and earned something of your own. Buying a used car is, in my opinion, the best option for first time car buyers, because a new car immediately begins to depreciate, or lose value, from the moment it drives off the lot. In this article, I’ll be covering 5 tips that everyone should know before buying a used car.
Know the Value of the Used Car You Want to Buy
This is one of the most obvious, yet overlooked areas of used car buying. Before you make a purchase, you should always do some research into the car you are considering buying. A great place to find the value of a used car is the Kelley Blue Book. You can find the online version here. The website will let you determine the value of a used car for both if you plan on buying it from a dealership or an individual, and what you can expect to pay in either case.
Get a Vehicle History Report
The second step you want to take when researching your potential used car purchase is to get a vehicle history report. One of the most popular sites to do this is Carfax. All you need is the VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number off the vehicle, and you can do a search. For a small fee, you can see exactly where and when your used car was purchased, how many owners have had the vehicle, if and when it was ever involved in an accident, and more. Most used car dealers will be happy to provide you with a used car’s vehicle history report. The unlimited license from CarFax is only $34.99 at the time this article was written. So if you’re about to spend a few thousand dollars for a used car, and the dealer has a problem showing you that car’s history, you should seriously consider shopping elsewhere!
Inspect the Used Car you Plan to Buy
Often times, a car will look great from the outside, but can hide many problems. A few things many people don’t consider when buying a used car is to look under the hood, underneath the vehicle itself, and things of that nature. Now, not everyone is a mechanic, but here’s a few quick pointers. Most vehicles have a hood release lever on the left hand side underneath the dashboard. Once this is released, you normally have to release a second latch under the front of the hood itself. Open the hood, and locate the oil dipstick, usually yellow in color and marked as engine oil, but not always. If you pull the dipstick out and the oil on it is a golden to blackish brown color, you shouldn’t worry too much about it. However, if the oil looks milky, sort of like melted chocolate, this is often an indication that there is or has been water inside the engine, which can be an indication of serious mechanical problems.
Another thing to look for is underneath the used car’s body itself. Kneel on the ground and inspect the bottom of the motor and transmission. Depending on the age of the car and the mileage, you may or may not see some oil or transmission fluid leakage. If there is a little and the car has quite a few miles on it (75,000 or more), some oil seepage is normal. However, an excessive amount of oil on the bottom of the motor can indicate a bad seal, such as an oil pan or valve cover gasket, which can be expensive to repair. All of these things lead to my next tip:
Beware of “As-Is, No Warranty” Deals on Used Cars
Many used cars are sold as what is called “As-is, no warranty”. This is great for the dealership, but bad for the buyer. For example, following all the tips in this article, if you purchase your first used car for $1000 less than the Kelley Blue Book value without a warranty, only to find out a few months later that you need a valve cover gasket and an alternator, you could end up spending well over the money you saved on your “great deal” of a used car buy in repairs that you will have to pay for out of your own pocket because you bought the car at a deal with no warranty. A warranty is basically a guarantee from the dealer saying “We know this is a used car, but we have faith in it, and we don’t think anything is broken. If it is, and you let us know in a reasonable time frame from the time you buy the car from us, we’ll make it right.” If the dealership isn’t willing to stand behind the used car they’re selling me, I’ll pass and pick something else, because normally “As-is” translates into “Something is Broken”.
Don’t be Afraid to Haggle to Get a Fair Price
Again, being realistic, most used cars sell for a few thousand dollars. Let’s do another for example scenario. Say you go to the used car lot and find the car of your dreams. It doesn’t have any major problems that you can see right off the bat, and the dealer is even offering you a 6 month warranty from the time you purchase the car from them. However, your price range is $3500, and the dealer is asking $5500 for your dream machine. What do you do? HAGGLE! You might end up paying more than your optimum price range, but often times if you haggle, or negotiate a better price with the dealership, you can get them to knock hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars off the price of your “new” used car. So even though the dealership is asking $5500 for the car that caught your eye, they may have only paid $900 for it at a dealer auction, so it’s in your best interest to talk them out of a little profit to get you into the used car you want. That way, everyone wins: the dealer makes a sale, and you get your car for close to the price range you were looking for in the first place.