What Do You Need When Buying a Used Car

Jan 24, 2020 04:04 PM EST | Staff Reporter

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What Do You Need When Buying a Used Car


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Buying a new car is exciting. It doesn't matter if it's brand new or used. It's almost like welcoming a new member of the family home. 

Most used car buyers ask "what do you need when buying a used car?" That's because buying a used vehicle is different than buying new, especially if you're buying from a private seller. 

You don't know where the car has been, who's driven it, or how well it was maintained. However, there are ways to be certain of your choice.

What Do You Need When Buying a Used Car?

When it comes to buying a used car, there are certain things you need to do, bring, and be aware of. Before you start car shopping, make sure to take a look at our list of everything you need to get the best deal and find the right car for you.

1. You Need to Figure Out Your Budget

One of the most important facets of buying a car is knowing how much you can afford. Before ever applying for a loan, dig into your budget to understand your financial standing. 

Take a look at all of your incoming and outgoing money. How much can you comfortably afford to invest in monthly car payments? Be sure to include things like the monthly insurance bills, fuel costs, maintenance fees, and a yearly registration fee.

Avoid maxing out your budget, as nearly 80 percent of Americans already live paycheck to paycheck.

2. You Need to Know Your Financing Options

Once you've got a good handle on your budget, it's time to start exploring your finance options. If you're completely on the ball, you may be able to save enough money to buy the car outright. This would be the most cost-efficient method. 

However, as suggested above, since most people live paycheck to paycheck, you're probably not in the financial position to drop thousands of dollars in cash in a car. In this case, you'll need to decide if where you want to go to finance a used car. While banks are usually a good option, many dealerships also offer attractive financing benefits.

3. You Need to Weigh Your Options

If you're asking yourself "What do you need when buying a used car?" the answer depends primarily on your unique circumstances. You need to figure out what type of car you want and how much you want to invest in it.

For example, do you need a truck for hauling equipment and materials regularly? Do you need a van or SUV for a big family? Or would you like a small compact vehicle for optimum fuel economy?

Additionally, you need to decide if you want to buy a traditional used car or a certified pre-owned vehicle. A CPO, while more expensive, comes with a lot of benefits. For example, most CPOs come with renewed warranties, roadside assistance, and far less risk.

4. You Need to Choose the Right Seller/Dealership

Another important aspect of getting the best used car for your needs is finding the right seller to buy from. 

People looking to save a little bit of money seek out private sellers. However, this can be somewhat risky as private sellers don't operate as a business, which means they're not held accountable for anything. While most people aren't looking to rip you off, buying from a private seller definitely poses a higher risk.

Alternatively, you opt to buy from a dealership. This can be beneficial for several reasons:

  • You're buying from a credible source

  • You may have the option for warranties

  • Most used vehicles are checked out by on-site mechanics

  • You'll have a wide selection of vehicles to choose from

  • You have the option to trade your car in

5. You Need to Take a Test Drive

A test drive is one of the most important answers to "What do you need when buying a used car?" 

A test drive is vital to understanding if the vehicle is right for you and/or uncovering any issues with the vehicle itself. By driving the car, you'll have a chance to experience how smooth it drives, its maneuverability, how the driver controls work, etc. 

If a seller isn't willing to let you take it for a test drive, consider it a major red flag and move on.

6. You Need to Have the Car Checked by a Mechanic

Especially when buying from a private seller, you need to take the car to have it checked over by a mechanic. Once again, if the seller is unwilling to allow you to do so, it may mean they're trying to cover up a major issue with the vehicle. 

Unless you have a great connection with a mechanic, this may cost you some money upfront. However, their advice could end up saving you thousands in the future. It's a good investment.

7. You Need to Get the Vehicle's History Report

When finding answers for "What do you need when buying a used car?" make sure you don't overlook the vehicle history report. A vehicle history report is vital to know where your car has been.

It will tell you if there's been any factory recalls on the car, how many owners it's had, and if it's ever had major repairs or damages. Some history reports will even give a detailed report of maintenance services it received.

8. You Need to Negotiate

When buying a used car, you have the option of negotiating to get the best deal possible. Depending on the seller, you may have some decent wiggle room. 

Make sure you know your numbers before entering into negotiations. Know the basic value of the car beforehand, which you kind find through various sources online, such as Kelly Blue Book. 

Open by stating that you've done research on the car and know its value and follow by asking what kind of discount they're offering. Make a low offer but within a reasonable range.

Where you go from there depends on the seller's flexibility and your ability to stick to your guns. 

9. You Need to Thoroughly Review the Paperwork

Before signing anything, always be sure to read the contract thoroughly. Make sure you understand everything from monthly payments and interest fees to warranty coverages.

Don't be surprised if there are extra small fees if you're buying through a dealership. These are expected and most of them are legitimate. If anything strikes you as questionable, be sure to ask about it or negotiate to have it waved.

10. You Need to Bring the Appropriate Documents

Finally, when asking "What do you need when buying a used car?" the answer may depend on whether or not you're already financed. If you're getting financed through a dealership, you may need some extra documents such as pay stubs, a credit report, or a list of references.

Otherwise, you'll simply need your driver's license, proof of car insurance, and whatever your form of payment is.

Want More Car Reviews and Rumors

We hope we've helped you answer "What do you need when buying a used car?" But if you're looking for more information, advice, reviews, and rumors about cars, be sure to check out the rest of our articles!

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