All You Need to Know About Buying a Used Car
Step 1: Work out a budget.
If you’re paying with cash, your budget is fairly simple. You already have your spending cap and you know what you can afford. Remember to set aside money to cover registration and insurance, as well as possible future repairs.
If you’re taking out an auto loan, your lender will help you determine how much you can afford to spend. It’s always a good idea to get pre-approved for an auto loan as it simplifies the car buying process and puts you in the driver’s seat at the dealership.
Step 2: Create a target list.
Time to find the vehicle that’s right for you. What features are most important to you? Create a list of must-haves. Then, search for vehicles with those features using tools such as AutoTrader or Edmunds. You’ll find detailed reviews and a list of pros and cons to help you make your decision. Build a target list of three or four vehicle models.
Step 3: Research.
Every used car is different. But you should always check the reliability rating of vehicles to make sure the model you choose is dependable. Consumer Reports and J.D. Power offer detailed maintenance reviews and lists of common trouble spots to note.
Step 4: Locate Your Vehicle.
You can find used cars on websites such as CarMax.com, at used-car dealerships, and in the pre-owned section at new-car dealerships. You can also use Texans CU’s convenient Preferred Dealer locator to search for local dealerships.
When researching available cars, be sure to consider the vehicle’s year, make, model and mileage. It’s also a good idea to find out what the average asking price is for the car you want to buy. For added peace of mind, most manufactures also offer Certified Pre-Owned vehicles that are more rigorously inspected and often come with additional warranty coverages and other benefits. Texans offers potential additional rate discounts when financing a manufacturer Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle. Talk with an loan specialist to learn more.
Step 5: Get the vehicle history report.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, run a vehicle history report. A vehicle history report will give you details about the car’s history. You’ll be able to see if the car has a clean title, if it has been in any serious accidents, and how many owners it has had.
Using the vehicle identification number (VIN), you can get a detailed vehicle report from AutoCheck or Carfax. Ask the dealer if they have one available for review - many will gladly show it to you or email you a copy.
Step 6: Call the seller.
Contact the dealer to verify the information you’ve learned about the car. A phone call or an email is a quick way to make sure the car is still available. You can also ask for any basic information about the car that you weren’t able to find out on your own.
If everything checks out, set up an appointment to take the car for a test drive.
Step 7: Test drive the vehicle.
Now, you’ll have the opportunity to actually drive the vehicle that you’re interested in and decide if it is worth buying. During your test drive, pay close attention to the following:
Is the ride smooth?
How is the acceleration and power?
Is the “check engine” light illuminated after initial startup?
Do you have full visibility?
Are the brakes working well and working quietly?
Do all the lights (headlights, brake lights, turning signals, internal lights) work?
Do the automatic window mechanisms and door-lock buttons work?
Step 8: Have the vehicle professionally inspected.
Most dealerships won’t have a problem with you taking the car to a mechanic for an inspection. Having your vehicle professionally inspected will only cost you about $100 now, but it can save you loads of frustration and lots of money down the road.
Step 9: Negotiate a good deal.
Negotiation doesn’t have to be stressful, especially if you’ve done your research beforehand. When negotiating a price, don’t talk about monthly payments; talk about the price of the car. Compare the dealer’s asking price to the average market price you determined and start there. Use all the information you’ve learned about your vehicle as bargaining chips. Make sure you ask for a breakdown of fees before saying yes to a deal to avoid any unexpected price increases.
Step 10: Make it official!
You’re ready to become the official new owner of your car! Texans CU has convenient closing options that allow you to sign electronically via Docusign, at a branch, or while at a Texans Network Dealership. Take your time reviewing the contract before you sign to make sure all the details are correct. The contract will include the agreed-upon sales price, state sales tax, documentation fees, and registration fees. Finally, don’t drive off the dealer’s lot until you’ve added the vehicle to your insurance policy.