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How To Shop For A Used Car


on 8/14/2019

Young man sitting in car, smiling and holding up a set of keys.

Shopping for a used car can be confusing, frustrating and downright scary at times. Once you’ve weighed your options and decided a used car is the way to go, follow this guide to finding and purchasing the right car. 

Is The Car In Good Condition? 

There are many ways to help determine if a used car is in good condition. It is common these days for people to purchase cars online or from distant sellers. We get our groceries delivered, why not our car? While that can be a convenient approach, it eliminates your ability to do the hear, feel, look and smell tests.

The “feel and hear” tests come into play when you have the chance to take the car for a test drive.  You can feel if the car is handling properly and listen for any rattles, squeaks or grinds. If a seller denies you the right to go for a test drive, it’s probably best to walk away.

The “look and smell” test is also important. Most cars that are for sale have been dressed up with a thorough cleaning, while dings and scratches are to be expected. However, if a seller can’t make the effort to clean up a car they want to sell, how much effort do you think they put into maintaining the vehicle while they owned it? Put your eyes and sniffer to work. 

Did You Take It To A Mechanic?

It is important that you take a car to a good mechanic before you buy. Even if you know a lot about cars, it is best to get an unbiased opinion. Let’s face it, you may not be objective if your eyes fall in love before your brain can process all of the information needed to make a wise purchase. 

Dealers will usually let you take a used car to a mechanic you trust. Some private sale owners may object. This is where you need to stand your ground if you want to take every step possible to ensure you have the right vehicle. 

At a minimum, you should get a CarFax report. Some dealerships may hand this over as a courtesy, but if not, they cost less than $50 and will provide you with this history of you car, like it’s odometer reading, whether the car has been salvaged or if it was used as a fleet vehicle. Many sellers will even foot the cost of the CarFax because they can still use it for the next potential buyer even if you do not buy the car.

Did You Negotiate?

Your first reaction may be, “Do I have to?” Negotiating isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  If you are buying from a dealer, it means sitting down with someone who has more experience than you, particularly with car sales. Just remember, you have the power in the transaction. You can buy from the first salesman or the fifth and that is perfectly up to you. 

The first step in negotiating is to know your price. The internet has made this much easier.  Research sites like Edmunds and NADA to learn what you can expect a vehicle to cost. Don’t think you can only do this before you look at a car. Step back once you find a car you are interested in and look up the value when you know all the details like miles, options and other factors that affect value.

When you are checking out the vehicle, follow these three rules: don’t talk too much, ask questions, but avoid talking about what you think about the car and don’t give clues to the seller that the car you are looking at is your favorite option.

Once you have completed your research and had all your questions answered, go ahead and make an offer, if you want the vehicle. In most cases, the seller expects you to negotiate, so don’t be afraid you will be insulting them by making an offer less than their asking price. You may have to walk away if the seller doesn’t budge on price, this can be difficult, but if you aren’t willing to walk away, what incentive does the seller have to lower the price? 

Whatever you decide, ensure you are getting the best deal for your budget. Check out our auto loan rates, terms and auto payment calculator anytime. 

 

© Genisys Credit Union and www.genisyscu.org, 2019.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Genisys Credit Union and www.genisyscu.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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