1. Plan your budget before anything else
You’re buying a used car to save money. So it’s essential that you need to figure out how much you can spend – in the long term, as well as short. Buying a used car often includes added expenses – licensing fees, taxes and insurance, for example. A general rule of thumb to follow is to buy a car that costs less than 20% of your salary. Keep in mind that a used car requires more maintenance than a new one. That’s why long-term planning is essential.
2. Plan other things – like the kind of car you need
Maybe it’s just you and your partner right now. In which case, a smaller, sleeker car might seem like a good idea. But if you’re planning on starting a family soon, then you’ll probably need a larger one. If you travel a lot, you might need a spacious boot. If you’re eco-conscious, you might want to look at hybrid cars as an option. The point is to take into account lifestyle factors, as well as money factors. The two are intertwined.
3. Follow the pricing guides
Online pricing guides are a simple way to help you calculate the market value of the car you want. This will help you when it’s time to negotiate with a charming, persuasive salesman who’s out to burn a hole in your pocket. Apart from price, research guides on engine types, navigation systems and mileage. Keep aside a portion of your budget for any add-ons you may require.
4. Feel free to shop online – carefully
Shopping online is easier than ever before. You can look at sites like Craigslist if you want to buy something from a private seller or CarMax which has an extensive catalogue of verified cars. But keep in mind that many online sellers don’t offer purchase protection from scams. If you don’t know much about cars and have a trusting nature, this probably isn’t an option you want to go for.
5. It’s all about timing
Dealerships are more eager to offer you great deals during the end of March, June, September and December. The end of December is definitely the sweetest time to buy a car so if you’re looking to treat yourself to a birthday present, you know what to get. Keep an eye out for motor shows in your city or town. It’s likely that many people in your area will be purchasing new cars during that time, which means they’ll be willing to sell their old cars at a good price.
6. Make sure you see the history report
The history report of the car you’re considering will provide you with a lot of important information – inspections, registration history, emissions records, etc. If the car seems fine but has passed through many hands, don’t buy it – it probably means maintenance is an issue. Also make sure the report discloses the kind of environment the car was used in – a wet, humid place? Somewhere with freezing temperatures and lots of snow? It will give you a good idea of what your car has been through – and what it’s capable of going through.
7. Hire a technician
If you’re not a car expert, this is a must. A technician will be able to examine your car properly and catch details the salesman conveniently forgot to mention. A technician will also be able to identify clocking scams which manipulate mileage. There are plenty of bespoke garages that provide technicians to protect you. Use them.
8. The golden rule: try before you buy
Test drives are important and no matter what, never buy a car without test-driving it first. But a five minute whip around the block isn’t going to tell you much. These are the things you need to keep in mind for an exhaustive test drive:
- The test drive should be no shorter than 30 to 40 minutes.
- Open and shut all the car doors a few times to make sure they don’t get stuck.
- Make sure the radio works, of course, but keep it off while you’re driving so you won’t miss any tell-tale engine knocks or screechy brake sounds.
- Take the car through roads with twists and turns to test the suspension, transmission and breaks.
- Take it on the highway to test its engine power.
- Don’t forget to test smart features like Bluetooth connectivity, the climate control system, parking sensors and navigation system.
- Find a parking space that’s the exact size as your garage or parking spot at home to make sure that the car will fit comfortably.