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12 Steps for Buying a Used Car
12 Step Program for Buying a Used Car

by Courtney Caldwell

1. Do Your Homework
Identify what you want before going to a dealership. Since your choices may be limited by what you can afford, determine your monthly costs before you do anything. Make a list of expenses to own the car including insurance, maintenance, gas, and other associated costs. Does it fit into your monthly budget?

2. Go With A Brand Name You Can Trust
Choose a brand name dealer that offers quality certified used cars and backs their products with either a service contract or warranty. Many people fear having a bad experience at a dealership. While many indignities still prevail in some dealerships most brand name dealers usually recognize the importance of treating customers with respect. It’s your responsibility to find a dealer that will treat you with the respect you deserve.

3. Trust Your Instincts
Trust your instincts and apply the years of shopping experience and research skills you've honed from other purchases to the sale of a car. You don't need to know how an engine ticks to buy a car. Trust your instincts about the salesperson and dealership.

4. Be Prepared To Walk Away
Have the car checked out by a reputable mechanic. A reputable dealer will have no problem with you bringing in your own mechanic to check out the car. They may not let you take it off the lot to do so but most will let you bring someone to the lot. If they don’t, assume something is wrong and walk away no matter how much you love the car.

5. Shop Around — Be Picky!
Once you identify what you want and can afford, locate the dealers who carry the product. Make a list of questions like the year of the car? Keep in mind that the higher the mileage the more worn the car and its parts. Has it undergone any structural repairs? Has it ever been in an accident? Are they willing to show you its historical maintenance records? Don't' rush into anything — even if you think you've found the car of your dreams.

6. Take It For A Test Drive
Never buy a car without taking it for a test drive. If they say no then walk away. Reputable dealers will allow you to go for a test drive and will accompany you to answer questions. Take the vehicle for a test drive on a route you normally take to work, for example, to get a good feel of how it will handle over the roads you drive every day. One of the tricks of used-car test drives is that sales people often choose a route that is quite smooth making the car feel perfectly fine. So don’t settle for a test drive around the block.

7. All Sales Final — Take Your Time
In most used car cases, if you buy from a private party or a no-name corner dealership, you own it and all its problems, once you leave. So take your time before making a commitment. Hint: Returned leased vehicles make excellent buys as they have low mileage and dealerships usually inspect them bumper-to-bumper in preparation for sale. They often come with warranties too.

8. Finding the Right Retailer — Build A Relationship
Establish a friendly relationship with your dealer that you trust so when you return for maintenance you'll feel confident about it. Building a positive long-term relationship is to the dealer’s advantage too. Happy customers recommend their dealership to friends and family. They don't want unhappy customers who will bad mouth the dealership.

9. Seek Out Salespeople Who Don't Use High Pressure Sales Tactics
If a salesperson is using high pressure sales tactics, your red flag should go up. Today's quality brand name cars practically sell themselves. Sales people that use high pressure usually have another agenda. Walk away. If you're not in control, getting your questions answered, and feeling comfortable, then this is not the place to make your sale.

10. Search the Net for Information
The Internet is a beautiful thing. You can do all your research at home. Just search the web for things like how to inspect a used car, auto reviews, leased vehicle sales, etc. Most importantly, do a vehicle identification number check (VIN check). There are several online services that will provide a complete history of the vehicle for a small fee.

11. Never Settle & Exercise Your Right To Change Your Mind
It's your money! Do what you want, not what someone else wants you to do. You're the one who has to live with this car. Never accept any deal that's a final sale. Be sure the door is left open to bring the car back in for maintenance and repairs. Don’t settle for anything less than what you really want unless it's a compromise you can live with. Explore their warranties, and research extended warranties. Check out their service department.

12. Read the Fine Print!
And always, and we do stress always, read the fine print before signing anything and what you don't understand, ask someone who is knowledgeable about contracts.

Also Visit - 20 Questions to ask when buying a used car.

RTM's Used Car Buying Article Archive - Click here.