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Tips for buying a used car

The price of new vehicles is high and constantly rises, so getting into a second-hand vehicle becomes a valid alternative. The trick to saving money is to get a quality car that has been treated with care. In this guide, we give you the best tips for buying a used car.

Know what you want

Cars are designed for a purpose - find out what you need it for first. If you're just looking for a machine that will get you between two points, like most people, and you don't have any specific requirements (for example, all-wheel drive or hauling musical instruments and amplification gear), you're probably left with a compact. If you need to tow farm equipment or are 6'7 ″ tall (meaning more than two meters), you'll need to do a more specific search.

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Make a list with the models that best suit your needs and check what is for sale near your home. What you will find will depend on what you are looking for and where you live. Buy from someone close to your home and always drive the vehicle before buying. Even if it's your third Dodge Challenger and you know exactly what you're getting into, remember that you've never been behind the wheel of that unit before. One of the first tips for buying a used car is to stay away from any salesperson who won't allow you to take a test drive.

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Learn how much to pay

There are dozens of resources to avoid being scammed when buying. In America at least, sites like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book will give you an idea of ​​how much to pay for a car depending on its trim level, its condition, and its mileage. We suggest browsing through the classifieds to see how much they ask for a similar vehicle. Remember another of our tips for buying a used car: there is usually room to haggle over the price.

Be careful who you sell with

Generally speaking, it is better to buy from a well-known dealer than from a private seller. By well-known dealership we mean one that represents an automobile manufacturer or a generic one with decades of experience. Ask your friends and family who they would buy a car from and who they wouldn't. However, you should use your own judgment when it comes to determining whether a particular bidder is trustworthy.

Ultimately, it depends on who the dealership is, who the private party is, and what car is in business. We would buy, for example, a 2018 Audi A4 from the local dealer, because it is most likely part of the certified pre-owned (CPO) program. On the contrary, we would not buy a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle from the nearest dealer, because we would get one in better condition in the hands of an individual.

Among the tips for buying a used car, remember the following: it is never wise to buy from a newly installed dealership that operates out of a warehouse in the part of town where rents are cheap. Common sense and caution will be your guides.

It is rarely a good idea to buy a car from a rental fleet. Even though it looks well maintained, remember that it has been driven by so many people, you could end up putting a time bomb in your garage. It's like the dog years: a mile in a rental car represents seven miles of wear and tear.

Vans and pickups can be an exception to this rule. They are typically handled smoothly, because drivers are afraid of them (they are large and difficult to maneuver), and are often only used for moving or household appliances.

Be careful when buying a car for a teenager or an elderly person. You may not want to buy the Honda Civic that your 16-year-old neighbor learned to drive with or the car of someone who has driven it exclusively in second gear for the past six years.

Check the history

CarFax can help you decipher the history of a car, but it is not essential either.

Never take information in an advertisement or information provided by a dealer's sales staff as the absolute truth. Basic research will teach you a lot about the car you are about to buy. First question: is the record clean? Forget a car owned by a company, especially if it was salvaged, regardless of the excuses the seller pulls out of the hat. Second: do you have the full service record? There is no reason why it should not. If you're buying an older one, like a 1986 Jeep Cherokee, rebuilding history will be more difficult, but not impossible.

Make sure the mileage is consistent with each bill. You don't want to buy an 18,000 mile (30,000 km) car that had its last oil change three months ago, when it completed 75,000 (120,000). Follow the wear carefully. If the driver's seat looks like it has 200,000 mile wear, it probably does, even if the odometer reads 20,000.

Are the tires the original ones? But because? Is one door a little lighter (or darker) than the others? Are the body panels aligned? Misaligned paint and body panels are a sign of an accident, and buying a wrecked car is a great way to run into trouble later.

Of the tips for buying a used car, another essential is to always shop with an OBD2 scanner. Trouble codes stored in the ECU will reveal problems that you don't see, hear, or feel while driving the car. Sellers with nothing to hide should have no problem allowing you to plug in the equipment, which can be purchased online for less than $ 20. It is also a great tool to have in the garage.

You have doubts? Question on buying a used or new car

Don't be ashamed to admit that you have no idea what you are buying. If you get disoriented, find a friend, relative, or neighbor who is not disoriented and take them shopping with you. It may cost you a meal or a round at the bar, but it will save you from bad times afterwards.

Another suggestion is to contract with an independent mechanic shop for a pre-inspection. If the procedure is done correctly, it will identify each and every problem and give you an estimate of how much it might cost to fix them.

How to buy a used car from a dealer or private seller

Buying a used car is a great way to save yourself some money, but consider these tips before you buy.

Interested in buying a used car?

Buying a used car is a great way to save money and still get the transportation you need for work, school, and life in general. But before making the purchase, consider these questions:

  • Should I buy through a dealer or an individual?

  • What are the benefits of exchanging my vehicle at a dealer vs. sell the vehicle myself ?
  • How do I know that the used car I want is in good condition? Once you decide to buy a used car, these tips can help you through the process.

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Tips for buying a used car

Before buying a used vehicle, start with these tips:

  • Inspect the car yourself to verify that it is mechanically okay or have it inspected by a certified mechanic. Look for signs of wear and tear, rust, peeling paint, and other red flags.

  • Pay for a vehicle report at an independent service like CARFAX or Consumer Reports. You can find out about any serious damage the car has suffered, from flooding to a crooked chassis.
  • Check the prices of the vehicles you like in official guides such as Kelley Blue Book or NADA . The value will vary depending on the make and model, year, condition, mileage and characteristics of the car. With this information you can negotiate the best price with the seller.
  • Protect yourself against fraud. Before purchasing, check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to make sure the car has not been reported stolen. Also, look at the VIN plate and registration documentation to make sure they haven't been tampered with. It makes sense to be extra cautious with any private seller who only wants cash or who refuses to give you an address and phone number.

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Trade in at a dealer or sell your car

For many people, exchanging at a dealer offers a convenient bargaining solution when buying a used car from a dealer . For others, it may be preferable to sell the car themselves . Maximize what you could get for your vehicle by trading it in at a dealer by following a few key steps:

  • Get ready by taking advantage of online car appraisal tools . These tools can give you a good idea of ​​how much your car could be worth. The key is to check out various sites and be realistic when evaluating the condition of your vehicle; very few cars actually rate "excellent."

  • Learn how the market works. Not because an appraisal tool states that your car is worth $ 5,000, does that mean you will get that amount from a dealer. To get an idea of ​​the range of offerings, visit several dealerships, including at least one that is different from your car make.
  • Separate the trade-in value of your shopping cart from your car. Once you agree on the exchange value at a dealer, make sure it is treated as credit. Then you start negotiating the price of the new car separately. This can help reduce the sales tax you pay for your new used car.

How to buy a used car from a dealer

When buying a car from a dealer , follow the steps below to get the best price for your used vehicle.

  • Visit several reputable dealerships that offer certified pre-owned vehicles. These vehicles will have a warranty, either from the vehicle dealer or the manufacturer.

  • Negotiate the price before mentioning your trade. 
  • Bring pre-approval documents and necessary paperwork when you close the deal. Also, review the purchase contract carefully.

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Things to do before buying a used car from a private seller

If you are considering buying a car privately - perhaps you are looking for a specific vehicle or found a salesperson with the vehicle you want - follow these tips to make the private purchase a happy transaction for both parties. 

  • Learn what shoppers generally pay in your local area for the particular year, make and model and the condition you want it in. There may be less opportunity to negotiate with a private seller than with a dealer, but this knowledge can help you make an offer that is fair.

  • Be aware of warning signs, such as a suspiciously low car price or a salesperson asking you for an electronic money transfer in advance. Also, always ask to see the title, which is a way that the seller can prove that they are the owner.
  • When you're ready to buy, research the vehicle's history through a service like CARFAX's report to discover issues the seller might not have disclosed to you. Private transactions are generally of the "sold as is" type, which means that any post-sale issues are generally the responsibility of the buyer.
  • Complete a pre-purchase inspection by taking the vehicle to a reputable mechanic. The mechanic can evaluate and advise you if they see a potential problem or a future repair that could cost you thousands of dollars later.
  • When you complete the transaction with a private seller, have your documentation in order and work with an escrow account service to facilitate payment, or carry out the transaction at your financial institution.