Buying a pre-owned vehicle can be a daunting task – there are many questions you need to ask before you make your decision to buy. So doing research ahead of time will greatly reduce the stress of buying a pre-owned vehicle.
Statistics show that every year people are spending more time on their computers searching for information before they even visit a car lot. But what are some of the questions that they need to find out before they decide to buy? This article should help . . .
Although it sounds easy, the traditional way is to drive around the area car lots to see what is available. If you get out of your car, you’re sure to attract a salesperson eager to show you “the best deals". Sometimes you may regret the choice you made – especially if you hear or see of a potentially better deal somewhere else.
You could check the newspaper for listings, but the best way is to go to a dealer’s website and see their inventory on-line. Let’s say you’ve got an idea to buy a small SUV, then it’s also a good idea to see the strength of a vehicle’s resale value, its service reports, its operating costs and so on.
One place to start when considering a specific vehicle is at the manufacturer’s website. If a vehicle has been in a market for at least a few years, you can see what the new versions are selling for and compare those prices to the prices for a pre-owned model. Be sure to check and see the differences between the models. Sometimes a base model with added options is cheaper than buying a higher model.
Next stop in your online research might be to find consumer reviews of the vehicle. There is a distinction . . . a magazine, such as Car and Driver, Road and Track or AutoWeek, will review the vehicle from the professional critic’s perspective. A critic may look at an SUV for its ability to pull a trailer or for going cross-country. You might be planning to use it to take kids to school and get groceries from the store every week.
If you seek out consumer reviews, you will find reports from actual owners. Sometimes these reports can have a huge bearing on your choice. Maybe the feature that stimulates your interest in a vehicle isn’t all that important in the day-to-day use of the vehicle. Another angle to consider is the day-to-day operating expense of a vehicle. Be sure to review the fuel economy of the vehicle, but see if owners are having specific repair and upkeep issues.
Another area to review is the potential resale value. A good source to check for resale value is www.kbb.com for Kelley Blue Book values. Or go to AutoTrader.com and check to see what the vehicle is selling for on area used car lots. Trade-in values listed in Kelley Blue Book are a good indicator of a vehicle’s “resale value”.
So, should you buy from a corner used car lot or from one of the big dealers? The small lots often have tempting prices, but you may not be sure if you’re getting a vehicle that has been thoroughly checked for integrity. A larger car lot is more likely to inspect every vehicle before they sell it. You can ask your salesperson for a record of the inspection. Ask what items were repaired, adjusted or replaced. Ask your salesperson for a vehicle history report, such as CarFax or AutoCheck. These reports will show how many prior owners there have been. It will show in which areas the vehicle has been. Be wary of vehicles that have come from an area that have had reports of storm damage, such as hail, floods, hurricanes or tornadoes. These history reports will show if a vehicle has had repairs that were covered by insurance. Sometimes repairs that cost less than a vehicle’s insurance deductible may not be reported on a car history. Those repairs may be minor but it’s good to know if a vehicle is sound. Obviously you will want to know if a car has a clear title – sometimes a vehicle has been rebuilt and may have a “salvage” title. Beware of these vehicles, they may be inexpensive, but you may not have a car with real integrity.
Some car lots will offer a "Certified pre-owned". This is a used vehicle that has been through a rigorous inspection, and has had adjustments to bring it up to a higher level of service. It may have had the tires replaced, the windshield wipers replaced, the brakes set to factory specs and more. Sure, these types of pre-owned vehicles cost a little more, but you will be buying a whole lot more piece of mind. Also, check to see if the vehicle you’re looking at has all of its owner’s manuals, the spare tire, the tire tools and jack, or other parts that came with it when it was new.
Also, as a customer you bring certain variables to the negotiating table, such as your existing vehicle’s trade in value (versus what you may still owe on it). Your credit worthiness determines the way your vehicle will be financed. Down payment affects the financing as well. Sometimes the “best deal” isn’t the best price but it might be how the vehicle is financed. A lower interest rate can save you hundreds