Before you even scope out different models, you need to have an idea of what you plan to spend — no more than 20 percent of your net monthly income is a good limit, says Kelley Blue Book. News has a helpful vehicle cost calculator that factors in taxes and loans, too. Remember to factor in vehicle maintenance, repair costs, gas, and insurance more on that below. Once you know your budget and how you plan to pay, you can decide whether new or used is right for you.
To help narrow down your options:. Look online, visit dealerships, and talk to friends and family. You might find much more flexibility in price with some dealers than others particularly if you expand your shopping range geographically.
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Try Kelley Blue Book , Edmunds. Instead, arrive at the lot armed with the fair market price and negotiate from that number instead. Using The Zebra , you can get quotes in just minutes and compare. Make sure you know important rating information such as your driving history, general credit score range, and preferred coverage levels so you can ensure your quote is as accurate as possible. Because auto insurance is our expertise, we created a car insurance buying guide to help you understand what you need and what you can afford.
The steps, in a nutshell:. When you know what car you want to purchase, look into private financing. Before visiting any dealerships, which usually offer financing, consider seeing what rates your personal bank or a credit union can offer you.
Buying A Used Car Checklist & Tips
Even if you go with the dealer for financing, you can use your quote to ensure you get the best price. Average time: 2 hours per dealership for steps 13—17, for a total of about 6 hours. If you can visit during the week — say, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday — you might have better luck with smaller crowds. Or, spend a weekend making your visits. Either way, you might not want to spread your visits out too much because many offers are time-sensitive. More about when to shop here. Buying an electric car at a dealership can be somewhat challenging because dealers are sometimes not as knowledgable about them as they are more traditional vehicles.
Check out make and model varieties, inquire about any and all features, and take a few rides for a test drive. Make sure to bring up any questions or potential concerns with dealers. There are plenty of other options. Some of us love the thrill, while others of us simply wilt. Have each dealership write down the price you settle on, and show other dealers to see if they can beat the price.
Sometimes dealers will only guarantee a price for a short time, so you may need to move quickly. Get the most for your ride with these tips.
You can also sell your car privately and almost always ask for more money this way, but the process is more personal and labor-intensive. And depending on where you live, tax advantages might actually make a lower dealership price a better deal, so consider all your options. Average time : Many sites say you can complete the process in under 30 minutes. Be sure to check business hours because you may not be able to call at night or on the weekend. For a haggle-free, streamlined experience, check out these companies selling used cars completely online.
Are there any issues specific to the make and model you are considering? Many vehicle manufacturers over the years have had problems with some models having defects or even recalls. Previous owners often give the best feedback about the important issues.
Know what to look for when you test drive the vehicle see our list below. Specific make and models may have certain warning signs, and being aware could save you a lot of money and inconvenience in the future. Check classified listings, newspaper ads, websites, and other resources to compare prices for similar cars. Purchase price can vary depending on where you buy the vehicle, but remember to consider all aspects of the car when determining cost fairness.
A vehicle with lower mileage that is in exceptional condition and has been well maintained may be worth a few extra dollars. Engine The first issue that you should address is the engine, and in particular, the engine oil. Make a visual inspection to see if there are any obvious oil or coolant leaks. When you open the hood, make sure that there is not a burnt oil smell, as this can indicate leaking oil lines or a more serious engine issue.
Ask the dealership or prior owner for service records providing evidence of regular oil changes and maintenance. Visually inspect the oil dipstick. Is it at the proper level?
Used car buying checklist
Does the oil on the dipstick appear clean and fresh or dark and old? Milky or sludgy oil can indicate poor maintenance or be a sign of more serious engine problems. Remove the oil cap and visually inspect it. Are there any dark, sooty deposits or sludge-like material present? If so, this could indicate a lack of proper or regular maintenance. Visually check for coolant leaks. If you find any — exercise caution; ask questions.
Start the engine. It should start easily, even from a cold start. The engine should run quietly and have a consistent, smooth idle speed. Check the engine exhaust. Is the exhaust visual? Blue smoke could indicate that the engine is worn or uses oil. Black smoke is a sign of excessive fuel consumption. Check for loose, dirty, or corroded battery terminals. Check condition of hoses and belts. Check for cracking, fraying, leaks, and proper tension.
This is a good indication of how well the car has been maintained and the additional cost of replacing any hoses or belts should be considered in the purchase price of the car. Automatic Transmission Check the transmission fluid.
Record the vehicle's details
It should be clear and clean. A burnt smell, low level, or dirty color could mean an internal problem with the transmission. Check for delayed engagement. When you put the vehicle in drive, it should engage easily and smoothly without jerking or lunging.
It should tend to creep forward when you take your foot off the brake. Check the reverse gear in the same way. A delay between the moment of shifting and the moment the transmission engages could mean that the transmission is worn or indicate a potential problem that could be very costly to repair.
Accelerate through the gears. Is there a smooth delivery of power? Again, the vehicle should not jerk or lunge between gears but should shift smoothly. Slow shifting could be a sign of low transmission fluid, leaks, neglect, or wear. Identifying the problem could help you decide to purchase or walk away. Manual Transmission Check for signs of a wearing clutch.
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