If you are considering buying a used car then it’s important to set aside some time and do a little used car research to make sure you find the right make and model to meet your needs. Finding that car is a step-by-step process. With the amount of information available at your fingertips, you can easily check the prices, know what you can afford, find a wide range of choices in makes and models, read the dealership reviews, check the vehicle history reports, and more. Here are six steps to guide you in your used car research before you walk into a dealership and test drive a car.
Step 1: Know Your Budget
The first step in used car research is by far the most important: have a clear understanding of the budget you’re working with. Knowing what you can afford will save you lots of time in your research. The general rule for financing a car is to never borrow more than 20 percent of your monthly take home pay. This amount should factor in your car insurance, too, along with fuel costs. Most dealers will provide some type of warranty, but you should still be prepared for the prospect of regular maintenance costs such as tires, brake work, and oil changes.
Step 2: Don’t Settle
Don’t set your sights on just one make or model. Once you have established what you can afford, build a list of cars to choose from in that price range. There is no doubt that Hondas and Toyotas are top choices for used cars, but they will also cost more, in some cases upwards of a few thousand dollars more than a comparable sized Ford, Jeep, or Chevy. If you’re looking to save money and get the most bang for your buck, make a list of 3 or 4 cars to choose from. Then, read reviews on the models to help guide your selection.
Step 3: Extensive Online Searches
A great way to find the car that fits your needs is to search online inventories, where you will find a larger selection to choose from. If you are unsure of the make and model you want, you will have the opportunity to browse through inventories. You will be amazed at the number of styles, makes, and models, and it will give you a chance to see what dealers are offering in the way of competitive prices.
Searching inventories allows you to check and compare car prices. Viewing used car inventories online, whether dealerships, independent used car lots, or websites that list private-party sellers, allows you to find the right car at the right price. You can also use services like Edmunds or Kelly Blue Book to get a reasonable expectation of what you should be paying for your used car.
Step 4: Consider Your Lifestyle
Choose a car that sufficiently meets your needs. Whether to get a minivan, SUV, sedan, or compact vehicle depends on lifestyle and needs. Ask yourself:
How often will you drive it?
What is your daily commute like?
How much space or how many seats do you need?
Will the car be used for long-distance travel?
For example, if your commute is a long one or you travel frequently for your job, a gas-efficient, smaller car might be more practical than an SUV. Be honest with yourself about your lifestyle!
Step 5: Run a History Check
Another important step before you purchase a used car is to make sure it has a solid history. Vehicle history reports can be easily obtained through a number of services and are run through vehicle identification number (VIN). They provide vital information about the car’s history, such as:
- Any accidents the car has been in
- If it has been declared a total loss
- Whether it has as a salvage title
- If the odometer has been rolled back
The two most widely known services are AutoCheck and Carfax, They cost a small fee to pull the reports, but are well worth the money to know exactly what you are looking at.
Choosing a used car can be an arduous process, but don’t let that deter you from taking the steps to ensure you get the right car for your budget and lifestyle. Still have questions about used car research? Contact the experts at Auto Action today to speak with our team!