Used Car Buying General Information

How to Buy a Second Hand Car


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If you're looking to buy a second hand car, you've come to the right place. At a 20 to 30 percent saving (even on a car that's only a year old) buying a second hand car can seem like a great idea. Today's cars are more reliable than ever before, their VIN can be traced to reveal the car's history, and some used cars are still under factory warranty. The process can seem a bit overwhelming to those of us who don't have every make or model memorized.

Following these simple steps to make the whole experience easier:

  1. Decide what kind of car you're looking for. If you're unsure, take into account how long you spend on the road, the distance you drive each day, whether or not you have children (or will) and how many doors you want. Nowadays, a second hand hybrid may be a great option.

  2. Condition, mileage, reliability, performance and popularity all determine the cost of a used car. Popularity in particular can heavily influence price, so the first step, if possible, is to choose a car that's not on the top of everybody else's list. Prepare to pay extra if you have to have that Honda Accord. If the car is much older, check to see how many previous owners it's had and check the mileage reading (an older car with only one previous owner may have great mileage and a long life ahead of it).

  3. Whether you're buyer from a dealership or a private party, check the vehicle's background. Many websites offer comprehensive information on vehicle condition, including an estimate on the number of previous owners, a vehicle service record, accident history and whether or not it has been issued a salvage title (declared a total loss by an insurance company.)

  4. Take it for a test drive! This is the best way to see whether or not this is the car for you and may alert you to any potential problems. Whenever possible, have the car inspected by a trusted mechanic. Purchasing a Manufacturer Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) car is a popular yet expensive alternative. These cars are sold at dealerships and undergo comprehensive testing. They also must meet age and mileage requirements established by the manufacturer. This can be a cheaper alternative to buying your dream car new.

  5. Before entering into any negotiations, check the official Blue Book price. Dealer markup can be anywhere from 5-20% so buying a used car through a private party may be a better option. If you do choose to go through a dealer, be sure to familiarize yourself with dealer "lingo" and offering cash works to your benefit (and can often seal the deal.)

  6. During negotiations, decide how high you're willing to go ahead of time. Keep the opening low, but in the general asking range and be prepared to walk out when you've reached your limit; a willingness to walk away can be be one of your strongest bargaining points.

  7. At a dealership, consider the extended warranties. These extended service contracts, which cover the cost of certain repairs and problems after a car's factory warranty expires, can be beneficial, but they will add to the price of the car. One way to get around this is to purchase a car that is still covered by its original warranty.

Following the above steps can make buying a second hand car a great experience and can lead you to a great car at an even better price.

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