New or used? The all-important question! Well, at least when it comes to car shopping. If you’re reading this article, it probably means you’ve already decided to buy a used car. That’s a good choice. Cars are not cheap, and they depreciate quickly. Buying a used car is a great way to get a good quality vehicle at an affordable price. However, by definition, a used car will come with some issues from regular wear and tear, so choosing the right one can be a bit trickier.
At the same time, the car market is flooded with used cars, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means you have plenty of options, so you can afford to walk away from a deal. Chances are, you’ll soon find something better. On the other hand, having too many options can get pretty tiring, and that’s without counting in all the con artists trying to make a quick buck from selling used cars.
To help you out, in this article, we will discuss some of the most common mistakes people make when buying used cars and give you some insight on how to avoid them.
Before you start looking for cars, you need to know how much you can afford to spend. You can certainly take the financing offer the dealership gives you but remember that there’s a good chance you’ll end up paying more than if you looked for a lender yourself. Of course, maybe you have savings, and you can have enough cash to pay for it in full. If not, financing will help you determine the upper limit of your price range.
Keep in mind that the financing rates for used cars tend to be higher than for new cars because if you default on your loan, the lender can get a better resale value on a new car.
When looking at financing options, many people make the mistake of focus exclusively on the monthly payment. Even if your monthly payment seems pretty low, if that means that you’ll be paying for a longer period of time, it could mean that you end up paying a lot more because of compounding interest.
Buying from a Dealership vs. Private Seller
Another common mistake people make is that they automatically think it’s better to buy from a private seller because they’re afraid a car dealer will talk them into paying more than the car is worth.
Well, first of all, there are a lot of freelancer dealers masquerading as private sellers, so you should approach a private seller just as you would a dealer. They buy their used cars at auctions, clean them up, and list them on various websites. If you decide to buy from a private seller, say that you’re interested in “the car for sale” when you call them. If they need you to be more specific so they can identify the car, it means they’re selling several.
To be fair, there are a lot of honest sellers out there. You just have to use your best judgment.
If you buy from a used car dealership, it tends to be a bit more expensive because every dealership has overhead expenses. On the other hand, you get a warranty, and if you have trouble with the car after you make the purchase, a dealership is a lot easier to pin down compared to a private seller. If you decide to buy a used car from a dealership, it’s best to look for the type of car you’d be interested in and your location. For example, you can search for “ford dealership st louis mo” and then go through the reviews from former customers.
Not Checking Under the Hood
Even if you’re not a qualified mechanic, there are still some things you can check to make sure the car is in good condition and worth the asking price. You’ll first want to take a look at the exterior and see if you can spot any dents, scratches, or rust. If the body panels are uneven or you notice that the car’s color doesn’t match everywhere, it could mean that the car was in an accident and the repair was less than ideal.
The car’s interior is also a good indicator of its condition and whether the mileage the seller advertised is genuine. For example, if the car is supposed to have less than 20,000 miles on the clock, the interior should look almost new. You’ll also want to check the condition of the steering wheel, side bolsters, seat bases, upholstery, lights, ventilation system, and central locking. While you’re inspecting the interior, pay attention to how it smells. A musty smell could indicate leaks and water damage.
Next step is to look under the hood. This is where you might find the reason why the seller is trying to get rid of the car for such a tempting price. Take a look at the engine. The engine and the area around it should look relatively clean and free of major leaks. Remove the oil-fill cap and look at the underside. If it’s not clear of gunk, it signals poor maintenance. You should also look for signs that the antifreeze is mixing with the engine oil through a leaky head gasket or cracked engine block by checking for milky white oil.
Not Having the Car Checked by a Qualified Mechanic
Once you’ve decided on a car, checked under the hood, and taken it for a test drive, the next step is to take it to a qualified mechanic for a more thorough inspection. They’ll be able to spot issues you might have missed. It’s best to learn to check a few things for yourself because unless you’re friends with them, mechanics usually charge a fee for a pre-purchase inspection.
Of course, if you’re almost sure you want to buy the car, the fee is worth it since it can tell you if there are issues that might cost you a lot of time and money after the deal is done. If the mechanic uncovers some fixable issues, you can use the inspection report to negotiate a better deal with the seller.