20 Tips for Used Car Buyers

Posted by: Dan on 6/12/2016

Category: General


Buying a used car can be a difficult

process. While you can get a great value by buying used, the experience can also bring with it many unique challenges.

In lieu of the glossy brochures and shiny showrooms that buying a new car offers, buying used means some extra legwork to find the right car at a great price. To help make the process easier, here are 20 tips to help you through the car buying journey.

1. Research

Getting the information you want on a vehicle that’s a couple of years old can take a bit more effort than just clicking through a manufacturer's website, so allow yourself plenty of time for research.

2. Pick out a number of vehicles you’re interested in

With the average Australian vehicle being over 10 years old, there are always plenty of trade-ins and used models on the market. Rather than limiting yourself in the search by picking just one vehicle, look at a couple of models you like.

3. Set a budget

While you may think setting a budget should be the first thing you do, used cars are usually sold at very negotiable prices, so find a couple of vehicles you like and then worry about the final price. Of course, having a general idea of what you can afford in advance is always a good idea.

4. Allow time to shop and browse

Rather than rush through the process of buying a vehicle, allow a couple of weeks to properly explore online listings and car yards to find your next ride.

5. Seek a reputable seller

Ensure your seller’s reputation is good. This can be more difficult if you’re buying from a private seller instead of a dealership, but many car sales sites ask for proof of ownership and other documents before accepting a listing. Even if your used car costs a little more overall, buying from a reputable seller will give you peace of mind.

6. Bring a friend along for a second opinion

Everyone has a friend that is a big “car guy” or “car girl.” Bring them along for a look at the car you are interested in to get a second opinion.

7. Be ready to bargain ...

Any vehicle you buy usually has a bottom price you can negotiate down to. When buying used, don’t be afraid to bargain a few thousand from the sticker price right away.

8. … and bargain hard

There is bargaining and then there is hard bargaining. In addition to trying to secure a lower sales price, look for other things that might help you negotiate a lower price, such as any scratches, dents, or other flaws that mean a discount is in order.

9. Identify model issues

Did that European car have a clunky stereo system? Was that Japanese auto known for a temperamental air conditioner? By utilizing your knowledge of minor issues surrounding a car, you can negotiate a better price for your vehicle overall.

10. Play hard to get

When you visit a dealership to buy a new car, the salesperson holds an advantage. But when you’re looking at used cars, you may be considering any make or model and you’re harder to pin down as a buyer. Play it cool, and don’t act too excited even if you’ve found a used vehicle you like, and the seller will try harder to win you over.

11. Let them know you’ve got options

Unlike new models that can sell easily via discount, the seller of a used car knows potential buyers are harder to come by – so don’t be afraid to leave the table to win a better deal.

12. Keep from committing to a deal early

Be sure to remember that finding the vehicle you want is just the first chapter; negotiating the finer points of the deal is where the real work begins.

13. Be polite

Buying a used car involves a bit of gamesmanship. You’re there to get a good deal, and the seller is there to get a good price. Make no apology for driving a hard bargain, but be sure you remain polite and respectful throughout the process.

14. Be flexible with the seller’s customer service

It’s totally OK to expect good service, but unlike at a big dealership, a used car seller may not have tons of staff ready to help you. Whether it's a private seller who can only show you the car outside business hours, or a used dealership busy with another customer, be a little flexible with the service you get.

15. See if you can add anything extra to the agreement

At a used car dealership and see a great set of car seats? What about that roof rack behind the counter? The great advantage of buying a used car is that a seller will often have other car gear on hand they’d be ready to sell at a great price.

16. Do a test drive

It sounds surprising, but there are some people out there who’ll buy a car without driving it. Even if you’ve found the perfect vehicle for you and it looks brand new, be sure you get it out for a drive before buying.

17. Check registration and other particulars

Most sellers are honest and decent, but there are a few shady ones out there. Before you sign on the dotted line for a used car, be sure you’ve got a maintenance history, registration information, and all other relevant details on hand before you pay.

18. Know your rights

Although drivers may not think used cars have as much protection under law as a new car, there are still a number of rights a buyer holds for any car they purchase.

19. Ask for a hold if you’re unsure

A rushed purchase is never a good idea, but rather than just walk away entirely from a car you like, ask the seller if they can hold the car for a couple of hours. There are no guarantees they’ll say yes if there are other buyers around, but letting you think it over for a couple of hours is usually a reasonable request.

20. Know there is always “next time”

If you’ve found a rare Ferrari to buy, you might need to pay up then and there. If you are buying a late model Toyota‚ Ford‚ Mercedes‚ or BMW, though? The advantage of buying a used car is that there’s always another one out there. So say no once or twice along the way if you’re unsure about a vehicle.

What other tips do you have for buying a used car? Let us know in the comments below:

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