Shopping for a used car is like going on a bit of a treasure hunt. You are never quite sure what you will get. Sure, there are amazing deals out there, and with the emergence of the internet as a car shopping tool, you have so many more options, which has its pros and cons. But one of those pros is that you can find a good deal on a car that meets your needs and budgets.
Set Your Budget
There are two main approaches to buying a car. You can either take out a loan or pay with cash. If you are paying with cash, budgeting is straightforward. But do not spend all your savings. Remember to set aside money for registration insurance – and possible future repairs.
Most people take out a car loan so they can protect their savings and buy a more expensive model. It is smart to look for a preapproved car loan because it makes the buying process easier and puts you in a strong position at the car dealership.
Use an auto loan calculator to compute the best loan for you. Plan to put about 10% down and finance the car for three years. If you can, the total of your monthly auto expenses should not be more than 20% of your monthly budget.
Finding the Right Car
With your budget set, you can now start hunting for your car. Take some time to think about how you plan to use this car. For example, if you have a family, you will want to factor that into your car choice. Having the right space for your family will make it easier for you to get the most out of your car.
Focus in on making a must-have list. Then, search for models that match as much of that must-have list, within your budget. There are plenty of useful car finder apps online that can help you browse through a variety of models to figure out what you can get for your money. When you find a few for the maybe pile, research those models in more detail. For example, when I was looking for my first car, if you haven’t already seen, I found a Renault Turbo 5. It met everything I was looking for at the time, which is most important. Nowadays, it would be no good because I have a family!
Check Reliability and Ownership Costs
Every used car is different. Some have been driven a lot of miles and could have more wear and tear. But, as a general rule, you want to make sure you are choosing models known for their dependability. There are plenty of consumer reports online that can help you create a better picture of how a model can perform.
A closely related issue is the total cost of ownership. Some cars are cheaper to buy, but you will end up paying a lot more if you buy a car that has a lot of issues with it. You can also expect higher insurance costs. There are a bunch of automotive websites that can help you understand the total cost of ownership of the models you are interested in.
Check the Vehicle History Report
Before you drive to the car you are interested in, run a vehicle history report. Using the vehicle identification number (VIN), you can get a detailed report of the car’s history. Depending on your area, there are great online options to use when you need too. It is a quick way to know if you should seriously consider buying this car.
In some cases, online classifieds will have links to free vehicle history reports. If not, it is worth it to buy one. It can save you a lot of money in the long term.
Here is some of the information you will learn:
- Does this car have a clean title? If a car’s been in a serious accident, fire, or flood, and it was considered no longer road worthy by the insurance company, it still might be driveable. However, the insurance company will issue a “salvage title” to alert future buyers. Steer clear of cars with a salvage title because it kills the resale value, and the car might still have hidden problems.
- Serious accidents are reported to the insurance company and will probably be on the vehicle history report.
- Shady car lots might spin the odometer back to increase the selling price. If you discover this is true steer clear. They have probably hidden a lot of other issues as well.
- It is nice to think the car you are interested in was driven to church by a little old lady for its entire life. If you order the report, you will know for sure each time changed hands.
- Some reports show if required maintenance was done on time and where the work was performed. This will help you understand what you might need to do.
To summarize, when buying a used car there are a lot of factors to take in mind. Understanding how much money you must spend on a car is important. Alongside knowing what you are getting yourself in for by utilizing great tools out there. Cost of ownership should be considered as well.
P.S. Just so you know, this will be my last post before Christmas. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Cheers, Dave