Used cars can be a great bargain and an incredible way to get an amazing car for much less than its original retail price, but the hunt for used cars is not always easy. Many people walk away from their used car search having paid more than they should have or, even worse, with a clunker that will only end up costing more money into the future. If you are currently in the market for a used car, these five tips will help you to get a great vehicle without breaking the bank or taking a risk on a potential maintenance nightmare.
Ask for Maintenance Records
Maintenance records are easily the most overlooked aspect of used car purchases. Very few owners keep records of money spent on their cars, so when you find a used car for sale with a detailed service history, you have likely found a car that was owned by someone who really loved it. If you are purchasing a relatively new model from a dealership, you can sometimes request the car's maintenance history from the dealership's service department. Once you have a history, be on the lookout for any unusual repairs or lapses in regular maintenance.
Use an Inspection Company
If you are buying an older car that is out of warranty, consider purchasing a third-party pre-purchase inspection (PPI). These inspections will provide you with detailed pictures of the car's condition, often catching small blemishes or other problems that you may have missed. Additionally, most companies use inspectors that are trained mechanics and can spot problem areas. Not only will this provide you with a wealth of information about your purchase, but it may also give you some leverage in price negotiations.
Expand Your Search
Most people will look for cars in a relatively small radius around them, but great used vehicle bargains can sometimes be found by expanding your searching out to 50 or even 100 miles. If you are looking for a particularly unusual vehicle or set of options, consider expanding your search even further out. While this may seem excessive, remember that the cost of traveling to your new-to-you car will probably be much less than the savings you will net from a particularly good deal. If you use a third-party inspection company, you can have an interesting car checked out before taking a long drive to view it in person.
Test Drive as Many Cars as Possible
Far too many people purchase the first car they find or fail to drive a variety of different cars. Nothing is more important than how you feel in the driver's seat and how the car drives. Try to avoid falling in love too quickly, however, as an even better car might be right around the corner. Test drives can also reveal maintenance issues that are lurking just under the surface. Pay special attention to anything that feels unusual in a car's handling, as well as odd sounds or behavior.
Try to avoid getting too attached to a single model or model year. If you extend your search to similar models or are willing to look at slightly older vehicles, you will increase the options available to you a great deal. It is easy to get tunnel vision, but if you test-drive many different models and makes, you may find an alternative you truly love.