Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A row of cars is shown from an angle featuring the hoods.

Tips for Buying a Used Car

Buying a new car can be a long and stressful process. It can get even more complicated when purchasing used cars, as there are more factors to take into account. Not only does one have to first figure out exactly which vehicle they are looking for, but they must also then find that specific vehicle in good condition that is being sold at their price range. Unlike purchasing a brand new vehicle, purchasing a pre-owned vehicle carries a lot of unseen risks. There are many different parts that make up a vehicle, all of which can fail at any given point. Purchasing a pre-owned vehicle is riskier because of this, as there is no guarantee that the inner-workings of the vehicle will be in good condition. Most reputable dealerships will put their pre-owned vehicles through rigorous inspections to ensure the quality of their vehicles, however not all pre-owned vehicles are sold by these dealerships. They can be sold from small, local dealerships, garages, or even just by regular people looking for some cash or to move on to a different vehicle. Hopefully, this guide will help cure some anxiety and make purchasing a used car a much easier process.

Figure out and understand what your particular needs are.

Although this seems rather basic, this is actually an extremely important and overlooked step. Each person possesses different needs when it comes to vehicle ownership. Understanding what exactly you need out of your vehicle will definitely help to narrow down your options. Perhaps one does a lot of traveling for their work, and would, therefore, need a vehicle that gets great gas mileage. Or perhaps one has a job where they are required to carry a lot of equipment and weight, where a truck would be more useful for them. Not only does utility matter, but also where you will be driving geographically. For instance, a driver who lives in New England would get a lot more use out of a vehicle with All-Wheel Drive (AWD), because the winter can bring a lot of ice and snow to the roads, which AWD handles well. Conversely, a driver who lives in Florida would be better off with something that isn’t AWD, as they aren’t facing many hazardous driving conditions and AWD sacrifices fuel economy for better handling and control.

Create and maintain a reasonable price range.

This is another tip that while seems rather basic, is very important overall. By giving yourself a reasonable price range, it can help further narrow down your choices, and also gives used car dealers something to work with. This allows them to come up with some options so that one isn’t just wandering aimlessly around a car lot. By keeping a price range, it can open one up to other options that they may not have otherwise considered.

One could head down to a dealership with a specific vehicle in mind, but find a different vehicle at a similar price that actually fits their situation better. By knowing what their price-range is, they end up with a better vehicle than what they were initially going to purchase. Maintaining a reasonable price range can also aid one in avoiding potential scams. If one is searching for cars in a specific price range and finds a vehicle that seems like it stands out among the other options as considerably better or nicer that should raise a warning flag. A good way to verify the vehicle would be to look up that specific make and model, and see what other people are selling it for. If it does not seem to match up with other similar listings, it is probably too good to be true.

A used car dealer is showing a couple the numbers on a calculator.

When narrowing down your choices, be sure to research the individual dealerships/sellers.

While it would certainly be ideal if every pre-owned seller could be trusted completely, unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. There are a lot of looser regulations when it comes to selling used cars, and sometimes people take advantage of that and sell lemons. Fortunately, there are many resources available to the consumer which can help them verify the validity of potential sellers. Check to see the customer reviews of the seller. While they are not exactly the most reliable source of information, other customers’ experiences are a good starting point for understanding the seller. There also exists many different websites and companies that are dedicated to validating and crediting pre-owned vehicles and dealerships such as Kelley Blue Book and CarFax.

Never purchase a vehicle without first inspecting it up close and in person.

Pictures and descriptions are good at giving a first-impression for a vehicle; however, any vehicle that one is seriously considering purchasing should be inspected by that potential buyer in person. This way, they get a chance to get familiar with the vehicle and also get a chance to inspect the vehicle. A great idea is to take notes while you are inspecting the vehicle. Take note of any scratches, dents, or interior damage, as well as the mileage of the car. By taking note of these, you can reference the listing and check to see if any of these were noted, which can help determine if the seller is honest or not. By inspecting the vehicle in person, one can also get a good sense of the condition of the vehicle. However, it can be difficult if one does not know what to look for, so a good idea would be to;

Get a professional’s opinion.

There are a lot of different parts that make up a vehicle, and for the average person, it can get extremely difficult and confusing when inspecting a vehicle. Not a lot of people truly know what to look for, and only inspect the vehicle on a surface level. A good idea for anybody would be to get a professional’s opinion on any vehicle that they were serious about purchasing. If one knows a good mechanic, they could ask their mechanic to give any potential vehicle a comprehensive inspection, ensuring that the vehicle they are going to be purchasing will be worth it. Most reputable sellers will have no problem allowing a 3rd party to inspect the vehicle, as they should have nothing to worry about. A definite warning would be if the seller refused to allow an outside inspection, and I would advise anyone to avoid a seller that does. One could even have a professional come with them to the dealership/lot to inspect the vehicle. While they would be more limited by not having a full garage or a lift, having that professional eye there is still the best option for any person.

Purchasing a used vehicle can definitely be a long and stressful process. There are many different factors and complications to consider when buying a pre-owned vehicle. While there is more risk involved in buying pre-owned than buying brand new, there is a lot of potential value and savings that can come from buying used vehicles. There are many different steps that one can take to make the buying process simpler. From the little things like figuring out your needs and budget to inspecting the vehicle and researching the seller, anyone can alleviate some of the stress and confusion that comes from buying a used vehicle.