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Get What You Pay For: Understanding the Process of Buying a Used a Car

Buying a car takes finesse. Understanding the process of buying a used car can help you weed out the lemons and find a diamond in the rough. Learn more below.

You rely on your car to get you where you need to go. But after years of road trips, daily commutes, and errands, you’ll need to replace it. And you’re in for a surprise if you’re looking at new cars…

Believe it or not, the price of a new car averages around $34,000. And that’s just for a basic model. The more features you add, the higher that price gets.

Feeling a bit of sticker shock? You’re not alone. That’s why more people are choosing to buy used cars than ever before.

But if you’ve never gone through the process of buying a used car before, you’re probably not sure where to start. Here’s what you need to know to make the best decision for your driving needs.

Pick Your Budget

One of the most important parts of buying any car, new or used, is deciding how much you’re willing to spend. And with used cars, you’ll almost always get more for your money.

Before you can decide on a firm dollar amount, you first need to know if you’re going to pay cash for the car or finance through a lender. If you’re planning on financing the car, you’ll want to think about how much you can afford in loan payments each month.

According to the experts at Legend Auto Sales, your ideal budget for an auto loan payment should be no more than 10 percent of your monthly income. If your income varies each month, err on the side of caution and look for cars that will give you a lower monthly payment.

Once you have a number in mind, make a plan to stick to that number. Avoid looking at cars that cost more than what you can afford. This will make it easier to stay on budget.

Research What You’re Looking For

Once you have a budget in mind, think about the type of car you need. Are you looking for a reliable daily commuter or do you need something to haul a bunch of gear and equipment?

Once you know what you need, start looking for cars that fit the bill in your area. Research the makes and models, their launch years, the safety features, and the cost of maintenance and upkeep.

Then, start price shopping in your area. Look for cars that fall within your budget range and no higher. Once you have a list of a few vehicles, find time to check them out in person.

Decide Between Dealerships and Private Sellers

When you’re buying a used car, you have two main choices: go to a dealership or work with a private seller. Both have their benefits, but dealerships are often the best choice.

Working with private sellers means you’re buying a car without the backing of a team of mechanics and industry professionals. And you won’t be able to trade your current car in to lower the asking price.

Worse, you’ll have to contact multiple private sellers to see more than one car. That takes time and you never know if the car will sell out from under you.

Used car dealerships have access to more makes and models and will take your current car as a trade-in. And if a model you’re interested in sells, they’ll be able to contact you when another similar one comes in.

Test Drive Different Makes and Models

The best way to decide if a car is worth your money is to take a test drive. But you’ll want to drive several makes and models if possible.

The more cars you can try out, the better off you’ll be. Remember, just because a car looks great on the computer doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your needs. You want to know how it handles on the road.

Make sure the seat is comfortable, that the pedals are easy to reach, and that the car handles smoothly on the road. Try to drive in city conditions as well as on the highway to really get the feel of the car.

If after the test drive, you’re not thrilled with the car, don’t buy it. It won’t grow on you over time and no one wants to spend thousands on a car they won’t love driving.

Don’t worry—your used car dealer will be able to find a car that works for you. It just might take more time than you thought.

Look at the Car’s History

When you find that perfect used car and want to buy it, you’ll want to look into the car’s history. Ask for an ownership report, detailing how many people have owned the car, any accidents it’s been in, and any major repairs it’s undergone.

If the car has more than three owners, think twice about buying it. Rapid changes in ownership could indicate a problem with the car itself.

The same holds true for major bodywork or other repairs. Minor fender benders aren’t reason enough to not buy the car. But if the car has been in and out of the shop for major issues, keep searching.

Get It Inspected

Part of buying any used car is making sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. That means you need to know what’s going on under the hood.

If you’re buying from a trusted dealership, you’ll know their mechanics inspected the car before they put it up for sale. But it never hurts to get a second opinion.

Hire an independent mechanic to take a look at the car. Ideally, it will be in good mechanical order on the lot. If not, ask the dealership to make the repairs before you buy it or deduct the cost of repairs from the sale price.

This way, you’ll get the best deal possible.

Drive the Car Home

If the car passes inspection and you’re still in love with it, all that’s left is finalizing the deal. Once you pay for the car, get the keys, and initiate the registration with the county, you’re all set.

All that’s left is to drive your new-to-you car home and enjoy the feel of the open road.

The Process of Buying a Used Car Is Simple

The process of buying a used car doesn’t have to be stressful. Just do your research, know what you want, and take your time.

If you’re not in love with any of the cars you’ve seen, wait it out. Used car inventories change weekly and the perfect ride will come along before you know it.

Once you have the used car of your dreams, you’ll want to plan out new routes and road trips. Check out these great routes guaranteed to leave a smile on your face as you drive.

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