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Interactive Checklists

Buying a Used Car

Category: Automotive
This check list is in the following categories:
This checklist for buying a used car will help you make an informed decision when purchasing a used car from a dealer or private owner.

Purchasing a used car is excellent decision. Many save thousands by looking at used cars instead of new models. You may find that the car isn't even that old. You can usually find a car that is almost as good as new for a much lower price. Nevertheless, purchase an automobile is a major financial decision that needs to be done carefully. Don't get swindled into buying an unreliable used car. The items listed in this checklist are things you need to be aware of when buying a used car.

  • Make sure you have enough cash available.
    A reliable used car will generally cost at least $3,000-$6,000. It is important to know your budget when purchasing a used car. Allocate enough money after the purchase to pay for insurance, license, maintenance and repairs.
    An automobile depreciates in value (meaning you will probably sell it for less than you bought it for.) This is why you should purchase an automobile with cash whenever possible. If you borrow or sign a lease, your actual cost could be far more than necessary.
  • Determine what you need in a car.
    How will the car be used? Do you need a certain number of seats, automatic transmission, 4-wheel drive, enough power to tow a trailer, or low gas mileage?
  • Know your budget so you can stay within it.
  • Always test drive a used car before making a decision.
    It is a good idea to bring along a passenger to help listen for noises in the engine, evaluate seat comfort, and test car features.
  • Track the history of the car's VIN (vehicle identification number)
    The VIN is usually located on the windshield or inside the driver's door.
  • Ask for information on recent repairs or auto accidents
  • Take the vehicle to your mechanic for a general check of overall condition.
    There is no way to know from looking a vehicle if the brakes are showing wear or if another part may need to be replaced soon. It is good to know if repairs will need to be made shortly after purchasing a used car. These costs can be used to reduce the sale price.
    While your mechanic inspects the used car you want to purchase, ask if that particular vehicle tends to be dependable and if parts are generally expensive.
  • Is the car or truck still under manufacturer warranty?
  • Find out from your insurance agent how much it will cost to insure the vehicle.
  • Compare features and cost of at least 3-4 used cars before making a decision.
  • Don't be afraid to negotiate.
    It is alright to offer 10-20% less than the sale price for a used car, even if the seller says their price is firm.
  • Check the blue book value before making an offer.
    You will need to know the year, make, model, overall condition, and features. Look online for the blue book value.
  • Act quickly
    Used cars can sell quickly. If you think you have found the right vehicle, you may need to act quickly. Let the seller know if you need the vehicle held for 24 hours so you can research information or secure financing.
  • If purchasing a used car through a dealership, arrange for financing (if necessary) before negotiations.
    You can apply for a loan online, at your bank, or credit union. If applying online (and approved) the lender may send you a check made payable to the dealer of your choice. Be sure to look at the check and notice if it says, "If check is not deposited, it will be void after 30 days."
Now you can feel in control and confident when making a used car purchase.
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Note: Although these checklists have been carefully prepared by individuals who are experts in the subject, we do not suggest the information be used as a substitute for legal, medical, or financial advice. Always consult a professional who understands your specific situation.