You should never take buying a car lightly, and that’s especially true when buying a used car. When a car has been on the road for many miles and years before you see it, there are many unknowns about its condition that you can’t tell from looking it over once. To help, here are some tips for buying a used car that will end up paying off in the long run.
Budget and Needs Take Priority
Before you look at any prospective used cars, commit to buying a car in your budget that fits your needs. Both aspects are vital—it’s not helpful to buy something cheap if it doesn’t work for you. It may be better to just hold off and save in that case. And you’ll want to keep from paying too much for a vehicle because a car is a depreciating investment. You’ll never recoup exactly what you put in, so don’t overspend.
Get a Vehicle History Report
Another consideration for buying a used car is what’s on its vehicle history report. These reports demystify a car’s past—they account for major maintenance, damage, accidents it’s been involved in, and track when and where the car has been sold already. It also tells you how many previous owners it’s had, and if it was used as a rental or company car. This information can help explain its current condition in ways a previous owner won’t necessarily choose to. But don’t rely on the history report too much. You should also have the car inspected professionally and test drive it yourself.
Talk to the Owner
This is specific to purchasing from an individual owner. You’ll want to ask them certain questions to understand everything about the car. Start by calling them—this may save you a visit if your initial questions about condition and price don’t have satisfactory answers. Go in-depth about the car’s maintenance with the owner, too. Not everything is included in a history report, so you’ll want to ask about more routine maintenance jobs such as when the last oil change was and how the tires were maintained—if they followed surefire tips like these, that’s a good sign. These and other queries either will convince you to search elsewhere for a car or will be valuable pieces of information when you buy your used car and look forward to maintenance.
Make Sure You Have Your New Car’s Paperwork in Order
As you close the deal, make sure you have documentation of maintenance and the car’s title. The title will have to be signed over to you by the previous owner at the time of sale. Check with your local department of motor vehicles if there are steps you need to take to register the vehicle in your name. Depending on which state you’re from, there may be fees for skipping this tip.