How To Buy a Used Car

Fall is typically when the new car models start arriving in showrooms across the country, but for those on a budget, looking for a used car is often more prudent. Sometimes, used cars and used car salespeople get a bad rap. Polls rank used car salespeople near the bottom for honesty and ethics. But is this warranted? Let’s take a look at how to buy a used car by the book.

Where To Buy a Used Car

You have a few options when it comes to buying a used car. Most states require dealerships and salespeople to be licensed to sell any type of motor vehicle. You can also buy used cars from a private party, although this comes with its own potential risks. Most dealerships that sell new cars also sell used cars. Branded dealerships usually also sell certified pre-owned cars, which have to pass rigorous inspections before being offered for sale.

New and used car dealerships might carefully inspect their used cars before selling them. At the very least, reputable ones will provide a Carfax report and possibly a report from their service department on the car’s health. However, you should still generally get it checked out by your own mechanic. CPO cars usually come with an additional warranty.

Other options on where to buy used cars include car superstores, car rental agencies, banks and loan companies, and vehicle auctions. These options all have their pros and cons.

Do Your Homework

Regardless of where you decide to buy a used car, it’s important to do your homework. Research the average prices for the vehicle you’re interested in, including variations based on mileage and condition. Always inspect and drive any vehicle you’re looking at. Pay attention to the odometer. If the mileage seems unusual for the age of the vehicle, find out why. Ask for any maintenance records on the car, and pull a Carfax on it if you’re not offered one by the seller.

Examine the vehicle for wear and tear on the inside and outside. Even if you get service records on the vehicle, always have it inspected by an independent mechanic if you’re not qualified to do it yourself. Check the VIN on the car and make sure that it matches the paperwork offered by the seller. Get any sales agreement in writing, and research any dealer online and at the Better Business Bureau.

What To Expect When Shopping For a Used Car

The FTC requires dealerships to post a buyer’s guide for every used car sale. Anyone who sells more than five used cars per year must provide a buyer’s guide unless they’re a bank, financial institution, or selling a company vehicle to an employee. Dealerships must also provide you with a written disclosure of any mechanical defects known to the dealer, as well as any inspections done, and any warranty that covers major mechanical parts.

Some newer used cars might still be under a manufacturer’s warranty, and CPO cars come with an additional warranty from the manufacturer. A dealer-certified car may not come with a warranty from the manufacturer. Any used car that’s sold “as is” won’t be covered by a warranty.

Buying a used car can save you a lot of money, but it’s important that you do your research on both the vehicle and the entity selling it.

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