Buying a used car sounds easy, right? You walk up to the dealership, you pick a car you like, ask the dealer about it and then after a couple of forms and a deposit, you’ll be off in your used car and everything is fine and dandy. You’ve saved plenty of money, you’ve signed up for all the financing and you’re ready to live a life as a car owner.
But is that really all there is to it?
Used cars are often seen as the cheapest way to get yourself a vehicle. Pay a couple hundred, get yourself a very cheap and old vehicle and then you’re good to go. That’s the general idea, but what most people don’t realize is that buying a used car is more involved than they think. There are potential future issues like your vehicle breaking down due to used and worn parts, there might be cosmetic problems like a funky smell in the seats, or you might even pick the wrong vehicle and only went for the cheapest option.
Choosing a car is already quite a big task, even if you have a lot of funds. That makes choosing a used car on a budget an even bigger undertaking, but if you’re willing to put in some time and effort, it’s actually fairly manageable.
So to help prevent you from falling into the trap of “buying a used car is easy”, here’s a guide on helping you pick the right used vehicle.
- Set yourself a budget
If you have unlimited funds then you probably don’t need this article. However, if you’re like most people, then it’s important to set yourself a budget. It can be a rough estimate of how much you’re willing to pay for a car, it could be how much money you can set aside for a deposit, or it could be a guesstimate based on your income. Whatever the case, set yourself a budget so you know how much you have to spend and how much you’re willing to go over.
Stay within your means when buying a vehicle. Yes, you can get financing deals and even zero-interest deals, but that doesn’t mean you should be going for something that you really can’t afford. Your budget is going to determine everything from the car itself to insurance and road tax if applicable, so set yourself a budget and stick to it!
- Used vs new cars
This article is about buying used cars, but ultimately, there are times when buying a new car can actually be more beneficial. For instance, new cars often come with more financing options and advanced technology that you’ll rarely find in a used model. They also give you more peace of mind because a new car is probably more reliable than a used one. You often get more protection with your new card as well. For instance, if it breaks down, then you could get free repairs as long as it’s under a certain mileage. Shopping for a new car is also much easier because there’s often more choice and you can pick exactly what colours and features you want from the manufacturer.
With that said, used cars typically come with much lower price tags. This means you’ll save plenty of money, but insurance costs might be slightly higher if compared directly with a new model. However, the car model and make are bigger factors when it comes to insurance premiums. Buying a used car often allows you to buy a more expensive model because of the cheaper cost, and it also means there’s less stress when you’re actually driving your car. Because it’s used, you’re less likely to get upset if you get a dent or a ding because you never paid the full price anyway.
- Decide on features that you need
When picking a used car, you need to be aware that the features available are going to be a year or more out of date. That means safety options might not be there, new speed options might not be available and the general efficiency of the car might not be what you see described in reviews.
Decide on what features you deem important to you. Focus less on the engine specifics and features and focus more on practicality. For example, if you’re going to purchase a family car, then make sure it has plenty of space, lots of seats and a fair large trunk. The more versatile the vehicle, the better it functions as a family car. On the other hand, if you’re only looking for a compact city car, then the features you’re looking for will completely change. Trunk space might not be such a huge deal, but you might appreciate a smaller size so that it’s easier to park into tight spaces and drive around. Fuel economy might also be on your mind, but again, keep in mind that as cars age, their efficiency does reduce a little.
Safety features are also important. The last thing you’d want is to contact an auto accident law firm because some security feature on your vehicle failed. Make sure you do plenty of checks to ensure that your vehicle has features like stability control if you’re driving in an area known for its adverse weather.
Ultimately, you’ll have to make some compromise or else you’ll spend forever looking for the right used car for your needs. It’s important to actually determine where you’ll draw the line for certain features. Decide what your must-have features are and then make a list of luxuries. It’s hard to set a price on every feature, but as long as you make an effort to do your research on the various features and fuel economy of each vehicle, you can make an informed decision when picking a vehicle and get your money’s worth.
- Calculate the total costs of your car
Remember that buying your car isn’t the end of it. You’re going to have to pay for the car itself, taxes, license fees, insurance and other fees that you might be missing. You can get quotes for insurance and you can often ask the dealership about other fees that they don’t explicitly mention. Some dealerships will even charge extra fees that they mention in fine prints.
Make sure you do plenty of research on your purchase before you make a final decision. It’s a good idea to add an extra 10-20% onto the cost of your vehicle to account for things such as taxes and license fees and then calculate the insurance cost as a separate expense.
The cost of the vehicle will also depend on what channels you go through. For example, classified ads can typically be cheaper since you have the option to bargain for it. However, many people don’t trust buying face-to-face because it doesn’t come with as much security. If you’re able to contact a reputable seller then this changes, but in most cases, people will rely on dealerships to purchase a used car. This will incur extra fees and the warranty might have certain restricts, but it’s typically safer if you’re concerned about how much money you’re paying.
The last option is to actually purchase a vehicle at a car auction. These are risky places to purchase a vehicle since you don’t have the luxury of test driving and examining the car thoroughly before you place a bid, but millions of vehicles are sold via auctions every year and it can be one of the cheapest places to purchase a vehicle. However, there’s no backing out and there’s no guarantees or consumer rights. What you purchase is what you get, so make sure you do plenty of research into the car you purchase. Only auctions tend to be a little safer, but unless you live close to the person selling the vehicle, you won’t be able to test or inspect it.
Some final words
Buying a used car isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but it’s certainly more involved than what most people think. There are plenty of places to purchase a used car, but you end up taking more risks the lower the price is. Test driving is important in the world of buying cars, used or not, but it’s especially important with used cars because there could be very subtle differences.
For example, you’ll want to check if the car veers to one side for any reason, you’ll want to check if the steering wheel is in a comfortable position and you want to test if all the features work. The last thing you want is to buy into a scam or be told that certain features don’t actually work on your used vehicle.
Either way, purchasing a used car can be a fun process. You might come across ridiculously good deals, or you might even settle on buying a new car instead for the increased security and peace of mind.
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