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Buying a used car: 6 tips

Almost all of the cars I’ve owned in my life have been used cars, only recently did I buy a new car because it was an electric car (see my article Buying an electric vehicle: 3 tips). I like to buy used cars because of the significantly discounted price compared to new sales price. I typically buy cars that have up to 90,000 miles. So, below are my buying a used car: 6 tips.

1. Brands

I’ve only purchased Japanese brand used cars because of their reputation for reliability. Also, Japanese brands also have hold their value well, this will be important when you sell your used car.

But, you should purchase whatever brands that you and your family have had the best experience with. I think that while choosing a particular brand that you’ve had good past experiences with is important, where you’re purchasing your car from (dealership) is very important too.

Below are some resources for car reliability:

2. Dealerships & Purchase Inspections

As I look back over the years, I’ve owned 8 cars. And, I’ve typically had the best experiences buying used cars from the manufacturer’s dealerships, like Honda, Toyota, etc. What I mean by this is that I typically have the least amount of mechanical issues after purchase.

I don’t know if it is because the manufacturer’s dealerships are experts in a particular brand and will only sell used cars that meet certain requirements or if its because they want to protect their reputations in the community.

Now, please keep in mind that I’m sure there are small local dealerships that have good track records too. If you have family/friends that recommend a local dealerships, then you should consider those dealerships too.

If you buy from a local dealership, then I would recommend doing a purchase inspection before you buy. Purchase inspections are offered by the manufacturer’s dealerships and they give you feedback about any issues they find. You’ll want to call the manufacturer’s dealership for inspection price.

For example, if I was looking at a used Honda Odyssey at a local dealership, I would request that I be allowed to bring the car to the Honda dealership for a purchase inspection. If the local dealership does not allow you to do this, then I would walk away. I’ve done several purchase inspections for used cars I was looking at located at local dealerships and found some pricey issues that caused me to walk away from buying the cars.

3. Deciding which used car to buy

I would recommend that you visit several dealerships and test drive several used cars to see what’s out there. I don’t recommend buying the first car you test drive. Every car will have pros and cons.

After you’ve driven several cars, then you’ll want to narrow down which car meets your needs, like price, seating capacity, storage capacity, gas mileage, etc.

Once you’ve determined which make and model, like Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna, then you’ll want to focus on price. Which car will meet your budget? You’ll want to search online at used car websites like the websites listed below. You’ll want to figure out which years and mileage meet your price budget:

4. Research

After you’ve figured out what year, make and model, you’ll want to do some research about reliability. Below are some websites that enable you to review complaints about specific year, make and model cars:

5. Dealership that will service your used car

Before purchasing my used cars, I’ve talked with the service departments at the manufacturer’s dealerships to ask what their thoughts are about specific year, make and models. You may gain some insight regarding issues that specific cars have. You can also ask about maintenance costs too. It’s usually a good idea that there is a manufacturer’s dealership close to your home for long term maintenance of your car.

6. Extended Warranty & GAP Insurance

I’ve always purchased extended warranties with my used cars. I typically buy a 3 or 4 year extended warranty if available. You’ll want to review warranty coverage very carefully because they are not all created equal. Credit unions also sell extended warranties for cars they finance. One of my current cars has a 4 year extended warranty that I purchased through my credit union, it had better coverage over the dealership warranty and was significantly cheaper. Remember, dealership warranties are always negotiable, so try to get the best terms (years and mileage) and price.

You should also inquire about GAP insurance, if you’re putting no or a small down payment, with your bank or credit union. GAP insurance protects the borrower if the car is totaled by paying the remaining difference between the actual cash value of a vehicle and the balance still owed on the financing.

Some banks offer these products at a cheaper price. If anything you’ll get an idea about pricing so you can negotiate with the dealership…remember everything is negotiable. You’ll want to go over the policies carefully with your bank’s representative to confirm they meet your needs.

I hope you’ve found my Buying a used car: 6 tips article helpful. Below are some other articles I’ve written that may be helpful:

Get the lowest price for your new car: 5 tips (Car buying tips)

Get the highest price for your car: 6 tips (Car selling tips)

Save money on car maintenance and repairs: 3 tips (Car maintenance tips)

Buying an electric vehicle: 3 tips

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