Car Buying

Tips to Know Before Buying a Used Car

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2017

We recently read an article from Clark Howard that listed five important things you should know before buying a used car. We agreed with most of the article, so we decided to list a few of its best points and provide our own take for shoppers interested in learning some good tips to help them buy the best possible used car.

Check the Car's Repair Record

Before buying any used car, do the best you can to check its repair record. We don't mean the records on this specific car, though they help, too, but the general reliability history of this particular vehicle. "Buying a used car involves more risk than buying a new car," says Clark Howard. "One way to minimize risk is to buy used car models that have proven to be reliable."

How can you do that? For one, check J.D. Power and Consumer Reports reliability ratings to see if the vehicle you're considering is known to be a reliable one. We also suggest visiting Internet forums dedicated to the vehicle you're considering to check for common problems. It always helps to ask a trained mechanic (or a friend who has owned a similar car) for his or her opinion, too.

Get an Inspection From a Mechanic

When buying used cars, particularly older ones, we highly recommend getting a pre-purchase inspection from a mechanic. This ensures there aren't any unseen problems lurking underneath that could be easily concealed by the seller. "All used cars are sold as-is," Clark Howard reminds us, further noting that "the seller isn't required by law to be honest about the condition of the vehicle."

Our advice? Tell the seller you'll only buy the car if it receives a clean bill of health from a trusted mechanic. While a mechanic may charge $100 or more for such an inspection, it can be worth it if it saves you from thousands of dollars in potential repairs. If the seller balks at the idea of a pre-purchase inspection, you may want to reconsider your purchase, as the seller could be trying to hide something.

Pre-Arrange Your Financing

"One of the biggest mistakes people make when buying a car is to not arrange financing before they walk into a car dealership," says Clark Howard. We completely agree. Dealers don't always offer the best loan terms, so you'll want to shop around for financing before agreeing to any loan.

At the very least, shopping around for a loan will give you a bargaining chip when the dealer offers you a loan. If you've already been approved elsewhere at 4 percent interest and the dealer offers you 7 percent, you can tell the dealer you'll finance the car elsewhere if they don't lower the rate.

There are many other things to keep in mind when you're buying a used vehicle, from your budget to the vehicle's history, but these are three of the most important points you'll want to remember before you search for your next used vehicle.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Tips to Know Before Buying a Used Car - Autotrader