Buying a used car can be difficult, and searching for the best used car deals you can find can be even more challenging. You want to make sure that you are getting a good price, that it is easy on gas and that it is safe. The last thing that you want is to be stuck with a bad car. The Internet provides an excellent opportunity to find great pre-owned cars.
Research Used Car Information
Before buying a pre-owned car, it is always a good idea to conduct some research on your own. Organizations like Edmonds and Consumer Reports provide information on every car on the market today, including information about safety, performance and repairs. Also, you can find information about resale values and associated costs of ownership.
Set a Budget
You may have quite a bit of money set aside, but you need to make sure that you have enough room for haggling. By deciding on a set amount, you will be less likely to go over that when you are looking at a used car to buy. This is especially important if you are buying a used car that you will have to make payments on. When you have a set amount for a down payment, you will be able to pick a car that is within your monthly allowance, while still staying at or under the amount you have set aside.
Search Online Resources for Used Car Deals
There are a number of online sources for used cars, including both large dealerships and individuals. Websites like AutoTrader and AutoMart have extensive databases of cars that are being sold across the country. You can conduct a search with specific parameters, including make, model, year, mileage and distance from your location. One of the advantages of using a large site like one of these is that many car dealerships list pre-owned vehicles, which have been inspected and certified by a professional mechanic.
Another online source for used cars are companies like CarMax. These companies have both online search features as well as physical car dealerships where you can personally inspect vehicles and even arrange financing for a purchase. In many cases, vehicles at dealerships like these are either lease returns or cars that have been turned in as a trade-in for a new car purchase. Lease returns can be an especially great deal because they usually have low miles and are well maintained. Also, companies like CarMax have their own certified inspection process, and often offer a short term vehicle guarantee as part of the purchase contract.
Companies like CarsDirect combine both new and used cars on their websites. This can be an excellent way to compare prices and characteristics of both types of cars and decide if you are truly finding a bargain or if you should continue refining your search until you find a vehicle that meets your needs and finances.
Finally, there are online auction sites like eBay. If you know precisely what you are looking for and are willing to sort through all of the ads, it is definitely possible to find a bargain through eBay Motors. However, be especially careful of purchasing cars from individuals through auction sites, since you may have no recourse if there is a problem with the vehicle after you have completed the purchase.
Order a Car History Report
Before buying any car online, ask for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and run a car history report. Companies like AutoCheck and Carfax provide complete car histories, including original purchase date, claims history, accident history and repairs. If a seller is reluctant to give you the VIN or discourages you from researching the vehicle, be wary and willing to walk away from the sale. This can be an indication of potentially large problems with the vehicle in question.
Take a Test Drive
You need to make sure that the car drives well, and that the motor and transmission work the way they should. Make sure that the dealership you visit allows you to take a rather extensive test drive because sometimes problems do not show up until the car has had a chance to warm up. Obviously, this may not be possible if the car you want is at a distant location. Take this into account when deciding if the car is worth the price, however low it may be.
Get an Inspection
After you have done the research and taken the car for a test drive, it's time to bring in a mechanic to examine the car thoroughly. The mechanic can point out any issues with the car, including fluid leaks and other problem areas. Make sure that the dealership is going to allow your mechanic to test drive the car as well. As with the test drive, this may be difficult if the car is far away. Still, you should be able to find an independent mechanic near the car who can conduct an inspection for a small fee.
Negotiate the Price
Most dealerships will put new tires on the vehicle, change the fluids, and do a basic tune up. If for some reason you find none of these things have been done, you should work on getting the cost of those things taken off the price of the car. Also, you should make sure you are getting the best price for the age of the used car. Kelley Blue Book can give you a value on the used car.