How to buy a used car guide
7 steps to buying a good used car
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A step-by-step guide to buying a used car
The key thing to know with used car purchases is that you generally buy “as is” — no matter what condition the car is in. The vehicle and all its warts become your problem. If it comes with any warranty, it’s usually very limited.
Here’s how to understand depreciation in real-life terms: Let’s say you buy a new car for $35,000. Unfortunately, you drive it off the lot and immediately get into an accident where the vehicle is declared a total loss.
Even though your vehicle only has a few miles on the odometer, your insurance company won’t pay you the full $35,000 for the total loss. You’re likely to get several thousand dollars less because of depreciation.
1. Arrange your used auto financing first
Look at credit unions, online banks or even traditional banks. Only take dealer financing if it beats any other offer you have. Of course, I would love for you to pay for an affordable used car completely in cash!
2. Make sure the used vehicle is worth what you’re paying
If you want a really cheap yet reliable used car, skip the Hondas and the Toyotas of the world. USA TODAY recommends you instead look at what are called “second-tier” Japanese brands such as Mazda, Nissan or Mitsubishi.
You’ll also probably want to skip European models but for a different reason. Cars with German engineering, for example, are so finely tuned that they require a lot of upkeep. That’s extra money you’ll always have to be spending in the shop.
3. Check Consumer Reports for reliability
But here’s the real value for a used car buyer: The magazine also offers detailed reliability ratings for the past six model years on every possible nameplate. These ratings are compiled from reports about 17 common trouble spots in more than half a million cars on the road.
4. Know where to find the deals
That last one lets you put in your zip code and the make/model of the vehicle you’re interested in at their website. They’ll comb through some two million listings available on published databases and rate the vehicles available for sale with notations of ‘good deal,’ ‘fair deal,’ ‘overpriced’ and so on.
5. Run the vehicle number
Once you’ve found a vehicle you’re interested in, be sure to run the vehicle identification number (VIN) through a free VIN check tool to find out if it’s a flood vehicle or if it’s been in an accident.