Bargain Hunting For A Used Car
The name bargain hunting is misleading. While one of the main goals of doing your homework is to find a bargain and save money it should not be your primary goal. What you need to do is find a car that fits your needs, which is reliable and in the best possible condition at the best price. If you only focus on buying a used car at the cheapest price, you will probably end up making an expensive business deal, as all of the used car's hidden problems will surface.
Your Goal When Buying A Used Car
The most important thing to remember about the price of a used car is that dealers and most private owners set the selling price of a used car based primarily on its condition. Therefore, if you shop around you will find that same model cars with identical or similar features will sell at very different prices. This is why the vehicle history check, test drive, and mechanical check are so important. Remember that if you buy a used car that is popular, you will pay a premium price for it. Therefore, you may wish to look at a similar car that is not as popular.
Consequently, consumer reports publish very good information on cars. They also provide information on vehicle maintenance and repair. You can also call the US Department of Transportation Auto Safety Hotline at 800-424-9393. You can also get information on vehicle recalls and technical service at www.alldata.tsb.com. By investing the time and a little money up front you could be saving yourself many financial headaches down the road.
Places to Shop for Cars
Some places you can shop for used cars are, new and used car dealers, rental car companies, leasing companies and private owners. New car dealers usually keep the best cars and run them through a thorough inspection. If you go with a dealer it is a good idea to buy from one that normally handles the particular make of car that you are looking for, and has a full service department with parts. Dealers will usually offer an extended or existing warranty. Make sure to compare between dealers.
Rental companies regularly offer cars that are less than two years old, are in excellent condition and still offer existing warranties.
Two advantages of buying from a private owner are that the negotiation process is informal and you can meet the owner of the used car face to face. However, remember that a private owner cannot offer a warranty, you will have to arrange your financing on your own, and in most states you will buy the car "as-is."
It is wise to call around when shopping to confirm whether a certain source has the important vehicle information to you: mileage, transmission, front, rear, all-wheel or four-wheel drive, air conditioning, ABS, air bags, color, model, etc. This is important to know up front because you may find a particular car and model you are interested in, but it may lack the specific features that you desire.
Some questions to ask:
- Are you the legal owner of the car?
- Was the car involved in any accidents?
- Are there any liens against the car?
- When did you buy the car?
- How many previous owners were there?
- What is its current mileage
- Did it have any major repairs?
- Does it need any major repairs now?
- Is there any rust?
- Are there any dents, dings or scratches
- What is the mechanical condition of the car?
- What is the general exterior and interior condition of the car?
- Where has the car been serviced?
- Are the service records available for inspection?
- Why are you selling the car?
Determining the Value of a Used Car
To get an idea of what the average trade-in, wholesale or retail price of any car sold within the US in the past seven years, check the NADA (National Automotive Dealers Association) Official Used Car Guide, Southeastern Edition, to find out the book value of a trade-in vehicle. You should be able to find this book at any library, bank or credit union. Remember that the average amounts provided by this book only serves as a guide to negotiate with the seller. You can also check the newspapers to get an idea of what local dealers are asking for the type of car you are interested in. The difference between wholesale and retail will be your bargaining range.
It's obvious that you will have to put the time and make the effort to do your research. However, if you follow the tips mentioned in this article, they should greatly improve your chances of finding a used car in good condition and at a bargain price.