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September 14, 2023

Confident Car Shopper: Tried and True Strategies for Used Car Success

Buying a used car can be nerve-wracking. Without the peace of mind of a new car warranty, how can you be sure your pre-owned ride will be reliable? While there are no guarantees in the world of pre-owned vehicles, there are some ways to mitigate your risk and enjoy a reliable vehicle. Read on to learn six tried and true strategies to shop for used cars with confidence.

1. Set Your Budget First

Before visiting any dealerships, determine what you can afford to spend. Getting pre-approved for financing will allow you to focus only on vehicles in your price range. Be sure to factor in not just the sale price but also insurance, registration, taxes, and ongoing maintenance costs. Setting a maximum monthly payment you are comfortable with will help guide your shopping.

2. Review Vehicle History Reports

Never purchase a used car without reviewing its vehicle history report from sources like Carfax or AutoCheck. This report will reveal key details about the car, including accident history, number of previous owners, service records, and mileage inconsistencies. Be wary of any sellers unwilling to provide these reports. Most used car dealers offer access to a car history report free of charge. If you’re shopping in the private market, it’s worth the small fee for peace of mind.

3. Prioritize Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

Consider focusing your search on certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles, which provide added assurance that your used car is ready for the road. To qualify as CPO, vehicles must pass extensive inspections and reconditioning. Most come with extended warranty coverage, roadside assistance, trip interruption protection, and other awesome perks. The extra cost of CPO models pays off in added consumer protections.

4. Schedule a Pre-Purchase Inspection

Before committing to any used vehicle, have it inspected by an independent mechanic you trust. They will undertake a thorough diagnostic evaluation and can provide an objective assessment of the car’s condition. Minor issues can be addressed, while major problems are red flags. The inspection fee is money well spent to make sure you don’t drive away with a lemon.

5. Take an Extensive Test Drive

Don’t just take a quick spin around the block. A comprehensive test driving allows you to evaluate comfort, performance, and electronics and potentially spot issues. Check that all accessories function properly and there are no unusual noises, leaks, or smells. Bring the car up to highway speeds, brake hard, and turn aggressively to understand how it handles to ensure it’s a good fit.

6. Negotiate Your Best Deal

Used car shopping is an exercise in negotiation. Before visiting the dealer, research prices for the make/model you want so you know a good deal when you see one. Consider browsing at month’s end when salespeople need to hit quotas. Be ready to walk away if you can’t get the price you want. With patience, you can negotiate the best possible price. Doing your homework will help you find a high-quality used vehicle you can enjoy for the long haul. If you’re not sure what to do with your current car once it has been replaced by a new-to-you used car, consider donating it to the Newgate School. Our auto mechanic program helps at-risk adults learn the proper skills to earn gainful employment in the auto industry. We rely on donated vehicles to teach our students everything they need to know to succeed.