How to Get a Deal on a Used Car

Most of us buy used at some point in our automotive lives. While we love the new stuff, and maybe even research specs and opinion with more of our time than we’d like to admit, buying used is the only way to affordably add classic models to the garage. It’s also a great way to get something simply cheap and reliable, for yourself or someone in your family. There are great ways to buy used, but if you don’t have a lot of experience buying used, they might not all occur to you. Follow these steps, and you’ll be much more likely to get a great deal.

Make a Short List of Makes and Models. Don’t just start hunting for cars. Know what you want. Decide what elements of the vehicle are most important for your needs. Do you want a car that you’ll be able to rebuild, which is also within your skill level? Do you want a vehicle that’ll have room for your dog, or other precious cargo? Is top speed or transmission type a dealbreaker? Remember, car insurance is cheaper for old cars, so old and reliable can be a great combo. Once you’ve figured out your needs, you’ll be able to determine a list of possible vehicles. Look at lots of reviews to see how these cars hold up over time. Then reduce your list to no more than five.

Determine the Long-Term Value of the Car. When it comes to leasing cars, you want to choose makes and models that will hold their value. These vehicles will be more attractive to car dealers, who know that they can still resell the car at a high price after you return it, even if it is used. Searching for options that have the highest residual value will help you narrow down your choices to those cars that will have lower lease payments.

Look All Over the Place. Finding a deal is all about looking where other people are unwilling to tread. If you are only considering one or two types of cars, it’s time to start looking everywhere in your region for them. Spread out your hunt to a 100 mile radius all around your home. In the end, this is a big purchase, and it’s worth traveling to find a great buy. Oftentimes, the best buys will be well outside the city, where fewer buyers are available to snap up deal. Look on Craigslist and other local-facing advertising platforms. Sometimes a seller will put up a vehicle in only one spot. If you can find it first, you get the deal.

Have an Inspection With the Owner Present. Don’t buy a vehicle without getting it inspected. Oftentimes a problem will be exposed that would cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair. This is a great moment to ask for a reduction on the purchase price; the owner will often pay for 100% of the repair. Once the car has been inspected and repaired, you’ll be able to drive away with confidence, so be ready to buy in this scenario. The same rules apply for used car places, too.

Watch Out for Hidden FeesOn top of the mileage caps and fees, you should also keep an eye out for other hidden fees that a car dealer may not tell you about immediately when they are trying to get you to lease a vehicle. These could include everything from registration fees and taxes that you have to pay when you get the car, to fees that you will have to pay upon returning your vehicle at the end of your lease. Asking about fees before you decide on whether a lease is right for you will allow you to properly budget and eliminate nasty surprises.

Getting great deals of used cars is second nature to some, but others need a little help getting that first deal. Knowing what you want and knowing what to ask for are two great ways to make this happen for yourself. Take your time and buy what you need. Don’t strike before you know you’ve found an awesome deal, tempting as it may be.