Used Car Buying Basics
If you're buying a used car, or thinking of buying a used car, there are a few things helpful to know to make sure you get the best deal, and don't get stuck with a purchase you'll regret.
Obviously you want to research the used car you intend to buy, in order to find out what owners say about it on forums, what the typical repair costs are, and how much it's likely to depreciate. There are owner's forums for just about every automaker where you can find comments, ask questions, and interact with other owners.
KNOW YOUR DEALER
In addition to learning about the used car you want to purchase, there are things to know about used car dealers that can help you get the best deal.
The first thing to know about dealerships is that they don't usually own the cars on their lots. They're all financed through what is known in the trade as "floor plan." Think of it as a car loan, like you might take when you buy a car, but for every car on the lot. What many people don't realize is dealers buy used cars under the floor plan loans as well. Even when someone trades in a car, the dealer takes a floor plan loan on the car and only pays the bank when the car sells.
Because of this, dealers want to close out each month with the best figures possible. They want to close their books with the best sales they can, so you can have some negotiating power if you buy your used car close to the end of the month.
Once you've found the exact car you want, you'll want to find out everything about it. Take it to an independent mechanic for a thorough inspection and purchase a vehicle history report so you can see how many owners the car has had and whether it's been in any accidents.
TAKE A DRIVE
Last, but certainly not least, make sure you test-drive any used car before you buy it. Take it on both surface streets and freeways to test it under various conditions. Don't be afraid to drive the way you normally drive, even if the dealer is sitting in the passenger seat. You're the one who's going to be driving this car every day, so if it doesn't feel right to you, you want to know sooner than later.