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Don’t Make These 10 Mistakes When Buying a Used Car

Given car prices are way up from 2020, it’s natural to look for ways to save on your next car purchase. One way is to buy a used car.

However, if you’re going to buy a used car, you must take precautions since it can be a bit riskier than the alternative. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when buying a used car: 

1. Not getting preapproved for a loan (if financing)

If you plan to finance your used car, you should try to get preapproved for a car loan first. This gives you an upper limit to what you can afford and helps make negotiating easier. Plus, it shows sellers that you’re serious.

2. Buying from the first dealer you visit

You may be tempted to buy a used car from the first dealership you visit. However, you should resist this urge. You might find a better deal elsewhere. Get a good feel for the market by getting quotes on cars you like and then shopping them around. Compare prices. Don’t just go for the first offer.

3. Talking about trade-in too early

Some dealerships may try to sell you a car and offer to buy your old one (aka a trade-in) at the same time. However, you should handle these two transactions one at a time. Otherwise, it can become difficult to track how good of a deal you’re getting (you should also know the value of your old car before entertaining offers to trade it in).

4. Focusing only on monthly payments

Another common mistake is to base your buying decision on monthly payments. 

Why? A car dealer may ask what your monthly car budget is and lengthen the car loan to accommodate it. However, that means the total cost of the car will be more in the long run due to interest payments. So compare prices by the total (not monthly) cost.

5. Foregoing a test drive

Even if you shop for your next car online, you need to go into the dealership at some point to test drive the car. This can reveal hidden issues with the car and help you know if you like how it feels. If you don’t go on a test drive, you are taking a major risk and may end up with buyer’s remorse. So take your time to test drive the car before buying.

6. Not having the car inspected by a mechanic

When buying a used car, the condition is everything. But you won’t have a reliable idea of a car’s condition without having it inspected by a professional mechanic. Most dealerships do this already, but if you’re buying from a private seller, you’ll want to hire a mechanic to take a look. They can identify potential issues and alert you to any red flags. 

According to Tiger Okeley at used car dealership Oak Motors, “Getting a professional inspection is vital and well worth the cost. You should be confident in your purchase whether the car is new or used.”

7. Making initial negotiations in person

Instead of walking into a dealership blind, do your research first and try to contact them via phone or email. This lets you get the ball rolling on negotiating a price. If you go straight to face-to-face negotiations, it can be harder to ensure you have the right data and facts on your side for negotiating a good deal. 

8. Buying based on looks

Never buy a car solely based on its looks. You need to consider a number of other factors first, including your budget, family needs, safety features, etc. Know all the details before you settle on any specific car.

9. Not running a vehicle history report

Always run a vehicle history report before buying a used car. Car dealerships usually do this for you, but private sellers may not. In that case, you can get one through sites like CARFAX and Autocheck. A vehicle history report gives a comprehensive account of the car’s history, including any past accidents, repairs, title information, etc.

Vehicle history reports are also important since past major accidents and salvage/stolen title brands can have a significant impact on the value of a car if you eventually try to resell it.

10. Buying unnecessary extras

Lastly, don’t give in to buying unnecessary extras for your car. Dealerships may try to upsell you on add-ons like extended warranties and wheel protection, but you should only buy these if you really need them. 

At the end of the day, there’s a lot that goes into buying a used car. Do your research and carefully weigh your options so you can make the best choice.

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