How to Prepare for Buying a Used Vehicle

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Everything You Need to Do Before Shopping for a Pre-Owned Vehicle

If you want to save the most money possible while purchasing a vehicle, consider a pre-owned ride from a used car dealership.

Why? In the first few years of owning a completely new automobile, its value rapidly declines, losing a large percentage of its worth. The first owner bears the brunt of this severe depreciation, which you avoid by purchasing the vehicle used.

But it does require you to do your due diligence before making a purchase. Here’s what you should consider before shopping.

Decide On a Budget

Finding a pre-owned vehicle, truck, or SUV with a monthly payment you believe you can afford isn’t the only way to set a budget for your used automobile purchase. Although the monthly payment is important, you also must consider the overall cost of ownership. Your new-to-you vehicle’s parking, fuel, and maintenance costs must all be included in this figure.

When searching for a used automobile, it’s important to keep in mind the cost of auto insurance, too. The model and even the year you select might have a significant impact on the price.

Check Your Financing Options

For most used automobile buyers, a loan is necessary to cover the cost of the vehicle. Having your financing handled by the used car dealership‘s finance department is one of the easiest ways of getting an auto loan.

If you’re buying a car on the private market, however, you have no choice but to get your own financing. It’s a good idea to chat to your bank about what they require from you to move forward with any loan application for a private used car purchase. Keep in mind that not all lenders will offer a loan for third-party purchases, particularly if the vehicle is older.

Check the Vehicle History Report

Preliminary research about a pre-owned vehicle is essential to make an informed decision about whether to purchase it. A Carfax or Autocheck report can help you determine if a vehicle is worth your time, or if there are too many red flags to keep it on your shortlist.

You will need to receive the car’s vehicle identifying number (VIN) from the dealership before you can run the report. Reports are also often provided free of charge by the dealer.

In addition to information on the vehicle’s history, a history report provides information on any accidents, fires, floods, or other damage the vehicle has suffered. They state whether the vehicle has been recalled at any point in time. Vehicle history reports aren’t perfect, but they provide a lot of essential information in an easy-to-read summary.

Time for a Test Drive

In addition to checking the car’s condition, a test drive is a good opportunity to assess whether you have a good feeling for the car overall. If you don’t feel at ease during your test drive, you won’t feel at ease until you buy the automobile.

Start the car and play around with all the features. Does it start right away, or does it take a long time to get going? No matter how frigid the weather may be outside, turn on the air conditioning and run the fans at every setting. Even on the warmest day of the year, you should still test the heater. Turn on the car’s interior lights. Listen for strange noises while the locks and windows are raised and lowered on every door and window.

Turn off the radio before you start the car so you can hear any weird noises coming from the engine, gearbox, or suspension. Check the windows, doors, and sunroof to see if there are any wind noises that may suggest a possible leak in the vehicle. There’s a lot to take in while performing a test drive, so consider making a list of things to check to take along with you, or bring along someone who knows a lot about cars to help you.

Get a Mechanical Inspection from a Third Party

The cost of a pre-purchase mechanical inspection is likely to be quite inexpensive, particularly in comparison to the cost of a vehicle that needs extensive repairs.

Mechanics that are good at their job will be able to tell you how much the repairs will cost before you buy a car. They should be able to tell you which models are prone to which issues and whether the repairs and maintenance conducted have been done appropriately.

No matter what the technician finds, the trade isn’t over. Your pricing discussions will be impacted by any issues they uncover.


With the right vehicle chosen, financing in the bag, the go-ahead from an independent mechanic, and a successful test drive, all that’s left is to sign the papers and drive away in your new ride, knowing you made the most informed decision possible.

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