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9 tips for buying a used car

Sept. 28, 2015 at midnight

We've all heard the horror stories of used car owners, and sometimes we know that they are true. After all, think about some of the things you've done in your car that you're not too proud of. But buying a used car does not have to be a bad experience. As long as you have a good understanding of the process and know what to look for, buying a used car can be a great way to get the right vehicle that delivers value and utility.

Here are 9 tips for you to use when you're buying a used car.

1. Understand it's a buyer's market

Do not rush into a sale, no matter how good it might seem. Take your time to find the best mix of value and utility for you. Sometimes sellers use an urgency tactic to push you a car before you are ready. Remember that everything is negotiable. You are the one in control.

2. Understand the model of the car

One of the biggest differences between buying a new car and a used car is that there is a lot more information available about used cars since they've been around longer. Use this information to your advantage. Do a little bit of research: do other drivers like this car? Do any of them regret their purchase? Why? Were there any major recalls? What was the initial MSRP? Are you getting a good deal on a bad car? Or are you getting a bad deal on a good car?

3. Understand how the car was used

Not all drivers are the same, nor are all roads. Was the previous owner someone who commuted long distances across poorly maintained highways? Did they live at the end of a long, hole-filled dirt road? Did their 16- year-old son drive it? All of these could have negatively impacted the car, and you might end up dealing with the problems. Conversely, if a car was used to bring Nanna to the supermarket and back once a week, it's probably in pretty good shape.

4. Carfax it up

Do not accept "we don't have the car history" as an answer. If you are not absolutely sure of what you are buying, don't buy it. It's best to have a complete vehicle history -- and understand where there have been problems -- than to have a surprise after you drive off the lot.

5. Buy from someone you can trust

Are you buying a car from your neighbor who's lived down the street from you for 20 years? Or somebody named Ted that you met last week on Craigslist? You're probably going to feel very differently about those two purchases. It all comes down to confidence and trust. If you're buying from a dealership, head over to the shop and find people who are there waiting for oil changes. Ask them about their experience with this dealership. Are they pleased with the service they receive? Do they have a horror story that would make you run out of there in a split? Take the time to understand who you are buying from.

6. Shoot for a good warranty

Cars inevitably have problems, and it's often not the car's fault! Cars have to be driven on roads, in varying forms of weather, along with (eek!) other drivers... People tend to have a higher tolerance for malfunction when a car is used than when it's brand new. You shouldn't have this tolerance, any problem should be fixed as soon as possible to minimize damage and further costs down the road. Make sure you get the best warranty you can to protect your investment.

7. Know the MPG

With gas prices fluctuating wildly, knowing a specific MPG is important. If gas goes back near $4/gallon again, the difference of a few MPG can make a big difference at the end of the month on your bank statement. There are many things that affect how efficient a car is, like tire pressure, engine cleanliness, and drag. Research the expected MPG, and compare it to the experience of the previous owner. If the current MPG is a lot less, maybe that's a sign to check out the health of the car.

8. Check with your insurance

Insurance policies are often very lengthy documents full of fine print. It's always best to call your agent and ask them if anything changes for you if you buy this specific used car. You might be surprised about the things that your insurance covers and doesn't cover.

9. Have fun with it

This is your chance to shop around for a used vehicle that to you will be new. So you're really new car shopping . Treat it that way. Don't compromise. Find something that you really like. If at any time it stops being fun, maybe you're making a bad decision.

If you use these tips when you go to buy a used car, you can do it with confidence. You will have done the proper due diligence, you will be prepared to ask the right questions, and you will feel better about it from start to finish. Good luck!



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