7 Tips to be Used-Car Savvy: A Buying Guide

Alright my dear friends I am back.
I am sorry that I have been away four long days. I guess you should never start a blog the same weekend your truck breaks down and you have to buy a car for your hubby to get to work on Tuesday.  🙂
Since the struggle is fresh in mind I thought I would make today’s post a few tips about how to buy a used car.
Well like most people out there in the world, we drove around car lots and dreamed of brand new cars. It just didn’t make sense though. At last I had to be realistic and we decided to go with a used car.
Here are the top things I learned this weekend.

The Background Work: Worth Every Minute

1. Forever or for a day?

You need to decide whether it’s a used car you’re going to keep and drive for several years or a used car that’s going to get you through a month or two ’til you can do something else. We thought about going with a little car that was $800. But we knew that we’d be wanting an SUV and something with four-wheel drive soon. To me it just seems like paying for something twice; we are just going to wait a few months and then get an SUV anyways. So after much debate we decided to just go the route we wanted, inside our budget of course, and get an SUV. It might make good sense to wait and get a cheaper car if you know you’re going to have taxes coming in soon or some big windfall that you could use for a down-payment. But I knew we are getting no big checks in the mail soon.

2. The wants and needs

All right. Now I know you all already aren’t that happy with me because I started talking about budgets and here I’m going to talk about needs versus wants. (Way to start a Wednesday morning Bekka.) I hope that at least a few of you out there are like me and you cling to structure. If I didn’t have a list or a map or a notebook, I would be lost. With that being said you can make a physical list, use your phone (I love OneNote) or keep it locked away im that vault in your noggin. Organize what your family has to have and then all those bonuses you want to have.
For me we had to have four-wheel drive. It had to run well and be in our price range. I wanted nav, backup cam and remote start. Hey, who doesn’t? (Just for the record, I didn’t get them. I did however get the peace of mind knowing we bought what we could afford.)

3. The other list

I know I am probably a little too “pen and paper” for some of you out there, but bear with me. Just come up with a few rigs that fit your description. For me it was a RAV4, a Pathfinder, or an Xterra.
We also had the cheap backup car ideas which were Caprice, Sentra or an Altima. This way when you step foot on a lot and the guy says, “No, no. You really want to look at this.” You can say “No, no. I really don’t.” This one hour of research will probably save you four hours (if you are too nice, like me) of standing there on a lot listening to the guy go on and on about something I could never buy.

4. The last behind the scenes job

Check into the extra cost. Of course this is going to cover maintenance and fuel mileage. You can find tons of good information online. A lot of people forget to check on insurance for the car. You get a great deal. It’s the perfect thing. You want it really bad. You pay for it. You go home and realize insurance is a hundred bucks a month. Well what’s a girl to do now? Unfortunately the answer there is nothing. So spend a few minutes before and check in with your insurance company. Most companies online will give you a quote for adjustments or you could just look for some general data online. Remember, it’ll be who’s driving it and their driving record too that might be costing you.

Let’s go shopping!

1. Keep your head on strait

This section is pretty easy. Just shop away. Shop till your heart’s content and then probably keep shopping even after you’re exhausted. Don’t settle but don’t hold out. Keep your eyes open for the little lots that don’t look like they are worth the time. Balance excitement (or like me, your desperate need to find a car TODAY) with an actual evaluation of the rig.
Actually, now that I hear it outloud, this part is a little tricky.
We’ve ended up with about three cars that were awful. They cost us so much money just trying to keep them running. All because we got too excited looking at it and had to take it home. I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “I know better than to let a CD player or the color of the car make my decision.” Believe me, after you have been to like 65 lots in 3 days, the idea of finding something is so relieving you’ll almost buy anything. Stay alert out there folks. Tired shopping is drunk shopping! Haha.

2. Drive Baby Drive

Test drive it. And don’t just take it 2 blocks and come back and say, “Oh, it looks nice and rides smooth.” Take. It. For. A. Drive. Do some hard acceleration. Do some hard breaking. Sit somewhere and let it idle for a bit to make sure you don’t hear any crazy sounds or it doesn’t die on you. Check the AC to make sure it runs cold.
Here are the few things I have learned to check the hard way:
  •  Get to about 50 MPH and roll only the back windows down and see if the concussive wind is going to blow out your ear drums. You’ll know what I mean when you hear it! (In my current car you almost can’t roll the back windows down because it’s so bad. What is this, the stone age? Why have windows if you can’t open them?!)
  • Get in a parking lot and turn the tightest circles you can. If anything clunks, ask a friend who knows something to see of it’s a big deal or not.
  • Make sure all the windows roll down AND back up. It’s fun when you get home and realize your new car has an alarm but a window someone can just climb through.
  • Does the horn honk?  When you really want to yell at that guy who just about ran you off the road, you’re going to wish that thing worked. Besides it’s legally required in most States.

3. Cash is king

A truth as old as time. If at all possible find a car you can pay for in cash. If that’s not possible, get the best down payment you can. We saved about $1,200 on This SUV just because we were able to come in with a little cash. The smaller lots are more willing to work with you. Those bigger lots know they’re going to sell it no matter what so if you don’t wanna pay the whole asking price, they will find someone who will (and is less prepared and savvy than you)!
Yeah! You didn’t go in there all willy-nilly and end up with a sports car (dang it!) but you just bought a car that will hopefully be a perfect fit for you and your family. Of course, there are no guarantees that you didn’t get a lemon but I hope this helps!

Do you have any other tips for us? Share below in the comments so we are all a little wiser!

**Don’t forget to call your insurance right away and get it on your policy before you leave the lot. Some states don’t require this, but you’re going to want to have that thing covered incase somebody hits you on your way home.**

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