Used Car For Sale
Buying and Selling Cars

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Shopping for a Used Car

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea of getting a new car. We rely on our cars on a daily basis. In a way, they’re an extension of ourselves.

However, when shopping for a used car, it’s important to keep your wits about you. You can’t allow yourself to fall in love or make impulsive decisions. Buying a car is a huge investment – one that can affect you for years to come.

We’re here to help you make the right choice. Keep reading for the top 10 mistakes to avoid when shopping for a used car.

1. Not Knowing Your Financial Situation

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when looking at used cars is not understanding your financial picture (or ignoring it). For example, you need to think about how much you can comfortably afford to pay on your monthly loan payments. Comfortably is the keyword here.

Don’t agree to a loan that you can barely meet each month. If any other financial emergency comes up, you’ll fail to make payments and may risk losing the car. Nearly 80% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck because they bite off more than they can chew when borrowing money.

2. Not Considering All the Costs

Next, when buying a used car, it’s important to realize that the car loan and subsequent monthly payments won’t be your only expense. If you live in a state with a sale’s tax, you’ll need to account for that in your total loan amount. 

Additionally, car ownership comes with other costs, such as monthly auto insurance payments and yearly registration fees. Finally, you need to make room in your budget for things like fuel, regular maintenance, flat tires, repairs, etc.

3. Not Getting Pre-Approved for a Loan

Whether you’re looking at used cars for sale or are shopping for a home, you must get pre-approved for a loan. This will give you an accurate estimate of how much money you can afford to spend. You need to know your price range going in to avoid shopping above your means.

Getting pre-approved can also give you some valuable insight. For example, you may find that your credit score is on the low side, which could make it difficult to get approved for a loan with favorable terms. In this case, it may be worth it to spend a few months improving your credit score.

4 Not Figuring Out the Best Car for Your Lifestyle

Once you’re aware of your relative price range, you can start identifying the type of vehicle that will best suit your lifestyle. Think about what the primary use of the car is going to be. For example, if its main purpose is going to be driving you to and from work every day in the city, you’re going to want something smaller with great gas mileage.

Alternatively, if you have a family, you may want a van or an SUV. If you like spending your free time hunting, hiking, camping, and fishing, you’ll want a vehicle that is capable of off-road driving that is rugged enough to put up with your hobbies.

5. Not Doing Your Research

Now that you’ve narrowed down the types of used cars that will best accommodate your needs, you need to spend a little time researching car prices. Figure out what a fair deal on these types of cars is when bought from dealerships or private sellers. However, it may be helpful to find a car you’re interested in buying to use its specific information for further research.

If you’re planning on shopping at used car dealerships and trading in your current vehicle, you should also research a fair trade in value for your car. 

6. Picking a Car Based on Looks 

As noted in the beginning, it’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of buying a new car. However, you can’t let your heart start making decisions or you’re bound to walk away with a flashy car that’s not necessarily right for you. 

When buying used cars, avoid buying anything because of how it looks. Although, that’s not to say you can’t find a beautiful, sleek car that’s perfect for your needs.  

7. Not Getting a Vehicle History Report

When buying a used car, you must get a vehicle history report. The vehicle history report is an important document that essentially follows the car from the manufacturer to its current location. It tells you about:

  • Previous owners
  • Factory recalls
  • Commercial uses (as a lease or rental vehicle)
  • Major accidents and repairs
  • Maintenance history
  • And more

Additionally, if you’re worried about getting a reliable car in good condition, we might also recommend looking into certified pre-owned vehicles. These cars are typically only a few years old and have been refurbished to like-new condition, mechanically and aesthetically. As such, they have been given renewed warranties and other perks.

Check out some of these pre-owned deals to get a better idea.

8. Not Taking a Test Drive

It doesn’t matter if you’re shopping for used cars or brand new vehicles, you must take any contenders on a test drive. Here you will determine several things:

  • Do you enjoy driving the car?
  • Do all the instruments and gauges work?
  • Do all the electronic and comfort features work?
  • Is it a smooth and quiet ride?
  • Do you have good visibility?
  • Etc.

Never purchase a vehicle without first test driving it.

9. Not Getting the Car Checked Out by a Mechanic

When buying a used car, especially from a private seller, we highly recommend getting it checked out by an independent mechanic. Additionally, while most dealerships take care to ensure the mechanical integrity of their used inventory, it’s not a bad idea to get a second opinion.

A mechanic will have a keen eye for seeing anything that’s damaged, out of place, worn down, or needs to be replaced soon. It can give you extra leverage for negotiating if you still choose to purchase the vehicle.

10. Not Knowing How to Negotiate

Finally, we also recommend taking the time to learn some negotiation tactics. For example, don’t come in too low with your first offer. It can offend the seller or make them not take you seriously.

Second, know the dealership costs that are and are not negotiable. Dealerships have their own costs, so their prices are going to be somewhat higher than buying from a private seller. However, some of those prices can be waived during negotiations.

Are You in the Market or a Used Car?

If you’re thinking about buying a used car soon, we urge you to heed the top 10 mistakes listed above. Take your time to make sure you get the best car for the best price. 

However, if you’re looking for more car news, information, and insight, be sure to check out some of our other articles before you go. Our blog is dedicated to educating car owners like you about everything in the industry.