Determine your financing options and your price range
This is a critical step in your car buying checklist. You will need to look at your finances and determine how much of your savings and your income you can dedicate to buying a used car. If you have enough in savings, you may be able to make one payment to the seller of the car and not worry about monthly loan payments. If you don’t have enough money in savings, you may need to get a loan to cover the purchase of the car.
When you decide how you are going to pay for your used car, you will need to make some important decisions about how much you can spend. If you are going to cover the purchase of the car with your savings, will you empty out you account and not have enough left in case of an emergency? If you get a loan, is your down payment large enough for your monthly payment to comfortably fit in to your budget? These are important things you need to ask yourself before you buy a used car so that you don’t overextend your finances.
Before you turn the key…
Before you even get into the seller’s car, there are going to be a few important things to check out. First, look at the body of the car. Do the fenders meet the body of the car without gaps? Do the doors close securely? Do the windows and sunroof roll all the way up and down without cracks? Do the gas cap and trunk open and close easily? Also look at the edges of the car for chipped paint and inconsistencies in color.
If you encounter any of these problems, but you are still interested in the car, ask the seller to have them fixed before you purchase, or have them dock the cost of the repairs off the asking price of the car.
Go for a spin
Take the car out for a test drive and try to experience a number of driving conditions. You won’t be able to change the weather conditions, but if you can, try to drive the car in different driving conditions, like stop and go traffic and interstate driving. This will help you determine whether you are comfortable with the car’s size and drive.
Take it to the shop
If you are happy with your inspection and test drive, the next item on your checklist is to take the car to a mechanic of your choice. A mechanic should be able to tell you about maintenance and repairs the car may need, as well as whether the car is up to par with safety features and emissions tests.
Once your mechanic gives the car the thumbs up, you can make an offer on the car. You may choose to offer the asking price, or you may be able to use your research as leverage to negotiate a lower price. Regardless, once a seller accepts your offer, be sure that you change all of the tax, title, insurance and tag information.