Tips For Buying A Used Car

HINT:  These MAY be lemons.  Just saying.

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and with it comes more spending and more car travel.  You can go further in a new-to-you car, and still have money left over for presents, if you buy used.  Here are the tips I learned to shop for a used car:

 

1. Know what you want, before you start shopping.  Nowadays, you can do all your research online – resale values, consumer reviews, etc.  Four great research sites include:

Kelly Blue Book – kbb.com.  This is the gold-standard for learning EVERYTHING about the value of any used car.

Edmunds.com.  I actually prefer this site to KBB – it’s more user-friendly, and easier to understand.

NADA Guides.com.  (National Automobile Dealers Association) This site will help you comparison shop for cars, classic cars, motorcycles and more.

Carfax.com.  Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to the actual car you want, run the VIN number (the unique identifying number on the vehicle) through CarFax to learn the truth about that car.  For example, what is its real repair record?  CarFax is NOT free, though, and each “fax” costs about $35.

You can also try Vehicle History Minnesota.com for a free report.  Not really free – it still costs a dollar, and I believe you get what you pay for.

 

2.  Know where you want to shop.  Your main options are independent sellers, like Craigslist.org, online shops like CarSoup.com, new car dealerships, or used car dealerships.  Independent sellers will probably be cheaper, but will also take more time and energy.  For the first-time used car buyer, I recommend a new car dealership.

 

3. Identify 2-3 cars you’d consider buying.  Availability might be limited, so you’ll want options. You can’t be attached to just one car.  For example, if you want a Honda Accord, also consider a Toyota Camry and my favorite, the Hyundai Sonanta.  Bear in mind, EVERYONE wants a used Honda, so a used Hyundai or the Mitsubishi Galant will probably be less expensive, and have similar features.

 

4. Set a budget and stick to it.  Once you’ve done your research, you’ll have a good idea of what the cars you like should cost.  However, you also want to factor possibly higher insurance rates and license tabs.  Check with your agent to see if and how much your insurance may go up.  Also, if you are going up in size, you will pay more in gas.  When I went from a 2-door to a 4-door, my gas expenses almost doubled, even though I bought a fuel-efficient car.

 

5. Don’t be afraid to haggle.  Remember, used cars don’t go up in value the longer they sit around the dealership.  According to Cars Guru.com, 50% of cars drop in price at least once after 30 days on the market.  Ask for a low, but fair price, and don’t be lured in to buying unnecessary extended warranties.

 

6.  And finally, always test-drive the car.  Check to make sure the doors, windows, trunk and hood open and shut properly, that the car brakes work, that it can go easily up a steep hill, and that it doesn’t make any weird noises.  I recommend bringing along a friend, as a second pair of eyes and ears.

 

ONE LAST TIP!!!  Do NOT buy a used car until you have it inspected!  Check out the Lemon Squad – http://www.lemonsquad.com/states/minnesota.php?gclid=CIHn5teizLMCFUWnPAodfFoAXw  for full inspection.  They run between $120 to $150 and are worth it.  Don’t buy a lemon, peeps!

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3 Comments

  1. dan
    Posted November 13, 2012 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

    hello cheap chick. I saw you on fox 9 this morning and i really appreciate the good advice. I work at a car dealership and I see all kinds bad advice being given to car buyers. One thing that would have to disagree with you on is the idea that no one should get a service contract. There are many people that benefit greatly from having “extended warranties”. There are plenty of 3rd party sites like edmunds.com that promote these plans. Having protection plans like this can really help people that are on a budget. The idea of having a fixed payment is often times easier to work with than trying to plan for the unknown. A 1500 dollar repair can be devastating for someone living paycheck to paycheck.

  2. dkrycek
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Permalink

    Great article! My wife and I have been searching for cars for sale in Tallahassee and we were considering buying a used car. We just want to make sure that it won’t die on us before too long! This was very helpful!

  3. Posted December 18, 2013 at 4:48 AM | Permalink

    Hi Cheap Chick.
    Nice to see some very good advice given here, but one vital tip is if you don’t know what to look for when buying a car, take someone with you that does.
    Also make sure the person that is with you is also in the car when you test drive it. If for any reason only one person can be with the sales person when doing the test drive get the dealership to allow 2 test drives, one for you, and one for the person that you took with you. If they can’t agree to that, then walk away and go elsewhere.

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  • By Shop Used Cars Blog on November 13, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    Good Cars For Cheap…

    [...] what the cars you like should cost.  However, you also want to factor possibly [...]…

  • By Buy Used Cars For Cheap on November 23, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    [...] Tips For Buying A Used Car | The Cheap Chick Tips For Buying A Used Car. By The Cheap Chick | Published: November 13, HINT: These MAY be lemons. Just saying. The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and with it comes more spending and more car travel. You can go further in a new-to-you car, and still have money left . (National Automobile Dealers Association) This site will help you comparison shop for cars, classic cars, motorcycles and more. Once you've narrowed down your choices to the actual . [...]

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    Where I Thrift

    Everyone has their favorite thrift stores, right?  Okay, you do if you love thrifting as much as I do!  Here are the stores where I enjoy popping tags:

    Saver’s in Bloomington – close proximity to Prestigious West Bloomington and Edina equals excellent, higher end thrift scores.  Remember, if you donate?  You receive a 20% off coupon you can use right away!

    Saver’s in Columbia Heights – it’s the nearest thrift store to my house, and they have the NICEST staff of any Saver’s in the TC, in my humble opinion.

    ARC Value Village – For me, ARC is hit or miss.  I either score BIG, or leave empty-handed.  Either way, I always enjoy perusing this tidy, friendly shop.