Purchasing a secondhand car can be a thrilling experience for everyone, regardless of age. However, some industry statistics estimate that the average cost of a used car is close to $28,000, so it can also be a significant financial commitment. You’ll feel better driving out of the dealer the more informed you are going in. Dealers are required, for instance, to attach a Buyer’s Guide to each used vehicle. If you purchase a used automobile online, you are also entitled to a Buyer’s Guide. You can find out from the Guide whether an automobile is being offered “as is” or has a warranty. Along with learning about payment choices, independent inspections, and what to do in the event of an issue after the transaction is completed, you should also obtain a car history report.

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Completing homework

Do your research online or in person before you begin looking for a used car from an auto dealer. You might save a lot of money that way. Think about your needs in terms of type of car, usage, and budget. Remember additional expenses for things like gas, maintenance, insurance, and registration. Examine the mileage, safety testing, repair records, models, and options.

As soon as you’ve decided on a car or cars, get written quotes from dealers before making an appointment. Utilize those quotations to

Verify that the rates, rebates, discounts, and other offers are being applied as described.
Verify that the car is truly on the lot. Look for any last-minute add-ons or additional fees the dealer might try to impose.

Next, research the vendor in advance of your visit. Find out if there are any pending complaints against a specific dealer by getting in touch with the consumer protection offices in your state and municipality. Additionally, look up a dealer’s reputation online by typing in terms like “scam,” “review,” or “complaint” together with the name of the business.

The Buyers Guide and Dealer Sales

Every used vehicle that a dealer offers for sale must have a Buyers Guide visible. After the sale, they must also give it to the buyers. Program vehicles, demonstrations, and light-duty vans and trucks fall under this category. Dealer staff members have driven brand-new vehicles that haven’t been rented, owned, or leased. Program cars are low-mileage, current-model-year automobiles that have been returned from temporary rentals or leases. For most recreational vehicles, including motorbikes, dealers are not required to display a Buyers Guide.

As the Buyers Guide explains

the primary mechanical and electrical systems of the vehicle, along with some significant issues to be aware of when determining if the vehicle is being sold “as is” or with a warranty
What portion of the repair costs under warranty will the dealer pay? Get all promises in writing. Request a vehicle history report. Visit ftc.gov/usedcars for information on how to obtain a report, check for safety recalls, and other topics. Ask for a Spanish Buyers Guide if the sale is being conducted in Spanish. The dealer’s contact information, including the complaint contact. Keep in mind: Verbal agreements are challenging to follow through on.
Dealers in Wisconsin and Maine have their own copies of the Buyers Guide on display.

Recognize Add-Ons

Add-ons are extras that the dealer offers as options. Examples include rustproofing, gap insurance, and vehicle identification number (VIN) etching. Add-ons frequently run into the hundreds of dollars and are only brought up at the end of a demanding and drawn-out day at the dealership. Dealers may also attempt to tack on these and other extras to your deal without ever bringing them up to you, asking for your consent or knowledge. The majority of add-ons are available from independent retailers, and you may typically get the car you desire without any extras. When requesting an add-on from the dealer, make sure you acquire written responses that include the cost and the features of each add-on.

Prior to purchasing, obtain an independent inspection.

A third-party car inspection cannot be replaced by a vehicle history report. Although accidents and flood damage may be mentioned in a vehicle history record, technical issues are usually not included. For this reason, it’s wise to pay a third-party mechanic to perform a mechanical inspection on a secondhand vehicle. Even if the vehicle has been “certified,” examined, and is being sold with a warranty or service contract, it is still a good idea to have a mechanical inspection done. The inspection price is non-refundable, but it can save you from having to pay for a car that has serious issues.

A safety inspection is not the same as a mechanical inspection. Typically, safety inspections only pay attention to issues that pose a risk to driver safety.

You might be able to locate a mobile inspection firm that will visit the dealer if the dealer won’t allow you remove the vehicle from the lot—possibly due to insurance constraints. Ask the dealer to bring the vehicle to a facility of your choosing for examination if that isn’t a possibility. Look for a different dealer if a dealer won’t permit an independent inspection.

Request a detailed report from the mechanic along with an estimate of the cost of all required repairs. Ensure that the report include the make, model, and VIN of the vehicle. After reviewing the findings of the inspection, if you want to purchase from the dealer, you can use the projected cost of repairs to haggle over the car’s price.

Options for Payment

You can choose to finance the cost of an automobile over time or pay for it in full.

Because you also have to pay interest and other credit costs when you finance an automobile, the overall cost of the purchase goes up. Think about the monthly payment, the financing period (e.g., 60 months), the down payment amount, and the annual percentage rate (APR).

Although deals with low monthly payments could be alluring, they are typically substantially more expensive overall due to their longer loan terms and higher interest rates. Thus, be sure to understand the entire cost of financing rather than just the amount of each monthly payment.

A range of financing conditions are available from dealers and other financing providers, such as banks, credit unions, and finance firms. Look around, evaluate prices, then bargain for the greatest offer you can.