There are a few different ways to go about finding a used car, and some of these methods are more sensible than others. While there is no single proper way to buy a used car, following a few basic steps can help set you in the right direction to find a quality used vehicle and get a good deal.
Selecting a Car
It is usually a good idea to decide what kind of car you want before shopping. This can help guide you to the right location to start looking. For example, if you want a specific car model, you might be able to find it for sale from a Certified Used Car programme, which may offer some benefits that a regular used car sale does not. Researching the car before shopping can also be helpful for bargaining during the buying process.
Looking at Online Listings
Online classified ads are a great way to find a used car. As you look through listings, keep in mind that being flexible is a good idea while browsing. You may have your heart set on a specific exterior colour or interior configuration, but if you want to find the best deal, be willing to sacrifice aesthetics. Focus on the seller's proximity to you, the price they are asking and whether they have other listings that indicate the seller's general quality and approach.
Timing Your Search
Set aside some time to search for the right used car listing. Be aware that you may not find a good deal right away, so be patient. You may want to start searching shortly before you are financially and practically ready to make a purchase just to be aware of what is out there and what kind of price range is normal for the car you want. Information is the most important tool you have while shopping for a used car. Being aware of common pricing for a vehicle will help you avoid making a bad deal. Do not start your search and plan on buying a car the same day. Take your time and find the best deal you can.
Private Sellers Vs. Professional Dealers
Some shoppers may prefer to purchase a used car through a professional dealer. This can be a good idea, but it is not necessarily the best way to find a used car. Dealers offer certain protections and may be easier to deal with in case the car is in poor condition, but focusing on dealer listings means excluding other options. Keeping your options open and giving yourself choices is generally a good idea while shopping for a used car. However, the sense of security and protection that comes with buying from a dealership may be more valuable than having options available, particularly if you can get a good price at a dealership.
Because there are a few aspects of the used car buying process that may be a matter of preference, such as whether to buy from a private seller or a professional dealer, there are only a few blanket rules that everyone should follow when searching for a vehicle. Being thorough is one of these rules. Do not deal with sellers who will not let you inspect and drive the car or have it professionally appraised before buying. Do not jump at the first good deal you see. Take your time and gather as much information as possible before buying.
What to Avoid
There are certain mistakes to avoid while searching for any vehicle, new or used. These mistakes can derail the process of finding a used car and lead to bad decision making. Being meticulous in your search for the right vehicle can be a waste of time if you end up just buying the first car you find and making a bad deal.
Used cars are often available in surprising places. You may be driving on your daily commute and see a car pass you on the road that has a "for sale" sign in its window, for example. This is not necessarily the best way to buy a used car. Finding a used car in a random location can lead to impulse buying decisions that end up being a bad idea in the long run. Taking a more deliberate approach, such as searching online and comparing different listings, is a more practical way to approach the buying process.
Once you have done your research and found a listing that seems like it could lead to a good deal, take a few minutes to consider the seller. Try to perform an Internet search to see if you can gather any information about the seller and any past transactions. If a seller is known to perpetuate fraud, scams or other dishonest dealings, you may be able to gather information on this online. This may not always be possible with a private seller, but dealerships may have customer reviews that you can look through.
Because there are so many different ways to purchase a new car, the process doesn't have to progress along a rigid step-by-step path. However, in order to get the best deal, you should arm yourself with patience, information and restraint before buying your new (to you) car. Be open-minded but cautious about sellers, and make sure you don't take the first deal that comes along.