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    Used Car Buying Tips: Making The Most Out Of Your Shopping Experience

    Secondhand cars are mostly purchased by those who struggle financially. For the well-off, what matters are vehicles with historical significance. 

    It is safe to say you are reading this for a more down-to-earth reason. Perhaps, you are asking yourself how to find the right car for your budget? Luckily for you, you are in the right place. 

    In this article, I’ll share tips to get an affordable, quality car. Keep reading until the end to learn how to maximize your opportunity.

    Used Car Buying Tips: Making The Most Out Of Your Shopping Experience

    Establish your budget:

    Prepare your budget to establish the range of affordable vehicles. Your payment should not be more than 20 percent of your take-home pay. Estimate the money you need to cover the following:

    - Purchase Price
    - Interest Rate (if you are resorting to a car loan)
    - Registration, including license and title fees
    - Insurance Premium
    - Taxes (for instance, sales and road taxes)
    - Associated fees such as dealership cost

    You may pay for extras like extended warranty if you need to. But, be wary of unwanted fees at the last minute of the negotiation. To save you time, ask the seller about them at the onset. 

    Time your purchase right:

    The rush to sell typically applies to dealers, but may also apply to some private sellers. 

    Often, the right time is based on quarterly sales. In other words, every end of March, June, September and December. 

    They need to give more spaces for incoming vehicles. So, they need to get rid of their older vehicles. This makes them more willing to negotiate for a successful sale. 

    In normal days, avoid weekends, every after payday and start of the month. A lot of people visit dealerships during those times. 

    Make a list of vehicles that will satisfy your needs:

    In your search for a good car, you may come across many options. Their specs, history and prices vary but they generally have what you look for. List down a minimum of three units, then weigh in their pros and cons.

    The larger the engine, the more fuel it burns, and the more costly it becomes. Yet, a larger engine is more efficient on highways and off-road terrains. 

    Manual cars move to be cheaper than automatic cars. But, they require less control from the driver. They are more fuel efficient as well.

    Smaller cars are usually cheaper but contain fewer features than an SUV. The latter is also suitable for family trips. 

    If you value prestige, you can shop for used luxury cars. In congested roads, a hybrid car can save you money on fuel consumption. 

    You may find vehicles for sale in these platforms/venues:

    - Dealerships
    - Vehicle lots
    - Vehicle retailers
    - Online auto listings
    - Rental car companies
    - Leasing companies
    - Auto stores

    Don’t forget to ask friends and relatives if they are selling a car. Unlike other sellers, they can be trusted. Plus, they know their cars more than anyone else. They may also refer you to a less risky seller.

    Determine if they are selling the car “as is” or not. A refund is allowed in some dealerships. In some cases, an additional warranty is provided. Any incentives offered should be included on a written contract. 

    Review vehicle history reports, official DMV records and others:

    Remember, you are buying a secondhand unit. It may be filled with hidden issues that could prove problematic in the future. So, you need to pay extra attention to history. 

    Be vigilant for any signs of these common scams:

    - VIN cloning - the duplication of VIN code from a similar unit to hide issues
    - Odometer rollback - the lowering of displayed mileage to sell the car at a higher price
    - Title washing - the removal of past titles from current vehicle records to misrepresent

    A car might be in good shape, but if it is stolen, it will not be truly yours. A contract will not be legally binding if the police deemed the car stolen. The police can confiscate it without compensating the buyer. 

    Cars deemed ‘salvage’ can be scraped for useful spare parts. But, the units themselves can no longer be posted for sale. However, some refurbished cars with a ‘rebuilt’ title can be sold in some states.

    Some sellers provide free car reports for the cars they are selling. Yet, the documents they present could be forged or fake. To avoid this, we advise doing your own vehicle history research. 

    Enter the VIN on any VIN lookup to get a car report. Get one from a paid service, like Carfax, or a free VIN check, like VinCheck.info

    As an alternative to VIN, the license plate number can be submitted as well. Check out the car history providers above for their license plate lookups. 

    A vehicle history report may reveal data on:

    - Vehicle Specifications
    - Equipment
    - Fuel Economy
    - Titles
    - Number of owners
    - Ownership transfer dates
    - Odometer readings
    - Repair / Maintenance details
    - Accidents
    - Salvage auction
    - Sales
    - NMVTIS data
    - Insurance
    - Warranty
    - Performance Ratings
    - Safety Ratings
    - Market Value
    - Ownership Cost
    - Other conditions worth mentioning

    Use the details you found to lower the price or get bonuses. If this is not enough, refer to these sites for free car data on

    Market Value / Prices:

    - Kelly Blue Book
    - NADAguides

    Vehicle Review Sites:

    - Edmunds.com
    - Consumer Reports
    - IIHS
    - NHTSA

    Others:

    - NICB (theft data)
    - Safercar.gov (recalls & defects)

    Meet up with the seller:

    First things first, you must do a background check on the seller prior to meet up. 

    Check if there are complaints or reviews on the seller from these entities:

    - Local consumer protection agency
    - State attorney general
    - Online forums
    - News outlets 
    - Customers
    - Better Business Bureau

    If you think the seller is trustworthy, schedule a meetup. Ask if the car posted is still for sale. If promises are made, they must be indicated on the contract you will sign. 

    If a dealership owns the car being sold, meet at the official business place. For private sellers, a meeting at the owner’s home is preferable. If you know where the seller lives, you know where to go in case of disputes. This is one way of ensuring that the seller will stay true to the agreement. 

    Dealers are regulated by laws related to lemons and consumer rights. Thus, a dealer is usually a “safer” choice than an individual seller. Yet, they tend to be costlier. 

    If you were lucky, you may have a trusted friend who is selling a car. Chances are, the car might be as good as your friend is. Just be careful in dealing with the sale. If you were not careful, you may ruin your relationship with your friend. 

    If the seller disagrees, this may imply avoidance after the sale. You'll be hard-pressed to demand compensation in case of a problem. If he agrees to it, bring a trusted companion with you for your safety. He or she may notice something that you might miss.  

    As a buyer, you have the right to know relevant info about the car. Ask the seller questions like:

    - Are you the owner?
    - May I know your reason for selling?
    - Are there details not shown in the ads, like problems?
    - Is it ok to have the car inspected by a mechanic?

    Scan important documents they present, such as registration and title. See if benefits, like warranty and service contract, can be transferred. 

    Do an up-close inspection of prospective cars:

    An independent mechanical inspection may help find red flags. Ask the seller if you can thoroughly inspect the vehicle of your choice. Alternatively, you may bring someone to do it on your behalf. These can be mentioned in a negotiation to ask for a better term or car. If the seller disagrees, start looking for other options. 

    During a test drive and inspection, you and your mechanic must take note of:

    - Visibility
    - Acceleration
    - Cornering
    - Brakes
    - Ergonomics
    - Fuel efficiency
    - Cargo Capacity
    - Electric functions (sound, radio, Bluetooth, USB ports, information display, etc.)
    - Engine
    - Controls
    - Headroom & legroom
    - Lightings
    - Steering wheel maneuverability
    - Seat adjustability
    - Liquids (for leaks, steams or burnt smell)
    - Oil level
    - Tires (if there are enough treads and air)
    - Appearance (scratches, dents or shoddy repairs)

    As you take the car out for a test drive, run it through different terrains. Try it on hills, areas with light traffic and congested roads. Perform different maneuvers to gauge if it is suitable for you. Start slowly and drive for at least an hour to test its structural integrity. 

    Discuss the terms and try securing the best deal:

    Now is the right time to bring what you learned from your research. See if the seller’s asking price corresponds to the usual prices. Then, bring up the “flaws” you found to haggle for a better deal. They can be anything from minor dents to electrical malfunctions. 

    Get a clear picture of how much money you are going to invest. Assess the total cost that includes the price, registration and add-ons. Then, compare it with similar ads. 

    The longer the loan, the more costly it becomes due to interest rate. But, in a shorter term loan, you have to pay more within the time frame. In conclusion, you will save more money if you complete the payment ASAP. 

    Dealership loans have incentives not found in other creditors. But banks and credit unions may offer cheaper loans. For a private loan, you can get the best deal by playing your cards right. Your friends and relatives could be the best people to approach. Yet, if you were not careful, it may ruin a relationship. 

    To get deals easier, maintain good credit scores. Achieve it by paying financial obligations on time. Get your credit report, if you have one, from credit reporting companies. You may use it as a reference in securing an auto loan. 

    If things did not go as expected, do not hesitate to walk away. After all, it is your personal money we are dealing with. You still have plenty of options to consider. Just keep looking. In time, you will find what you are looking for. 

    If your attempts worked just as planned, then congratulations! Finally, you have a good car that fits your budget. 

    What’s next after the purchase?

    Brace for the fees associated with registration and titling. Your car may also need to undergo safety and emissions inspections. 

    Take note that the process and regulation vary by state. Hence, it is important to understand state laws before buying a car.

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