Buying a used car is never as easy as it seems. Tasks such as applying for financing, haggling with salespeople, and the many hours spent car shopping can make the process of purchasing a previously owned vehicle a stressful experience for many consumers.
However, researching the make and model of the vehicle you plan to purchase and getting pre-approved for an auto loan before you head into the dealership can help you to get a better deal on your purchase. Even simple smartphone apps are available to help you find the best deal on a used vehicle. For more tips that can help you to get the best deal on a previously owned vehicle, review the sections below.
Do Your Homework
Before you begin the process of shopping for a previously-owned vehicle, use the internet to your advantage and do plenty of research. Research the specific year, make and model of the vehicle you are interested in purchasing, and find out how much the car or truck generally sells for in your region. However, be sure to take a vehicle’s mileage and notable features into consideration, as these will also affect its selling price.
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When conducting your research, reputable sources often include the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA), Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and Edmunds. If you’re able to, print your research, and take it along with you as you shop for a used car. When you negotiate the price of the used vehicle, you can use this information as leverage.
Purchase from a Private Seller
While you may feel more comfortable purchasing a used automobile from a licensed dealership, it’s important to keep in mind that dealers often charge 10 percent more for their vehicles than third-party sellers do. While dealerships employ professional salespeople to negotiate prices with customers, private sellers generally don’t have the same level of haggling skills. Plus, private sellers may need to sell their vehicles by a certain date, especially if they’re moving or hoping to purchase a new automobile. Therefore, private sellers may feel more motivated to make a deal.
Look for a Discontinued Model
Once a vehicle has been discontinued (or canceled), dealerships may try selling it at a discounted rate to make room for newer, better-selling models. If you’re looking for a great deal on a used car, a discontinued model may be your best bet. For instance, recently discontinued models include the following:
- Cadillac ELR and SRX
- Chrysler 200 and Town & Country
- Dodge Dart
- Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Accent Hatchback and Azera
- Volvo S80
- Scion tC
- Buick Verano
- Chevrolet SS
- Honda Accord Coupe
- Infiniti QX70
- Jeep Patriot
- Nissan Quest
- Mitsubishi Lancer
However, discontinued vehicles generally have a lower resale value, so this may not be the best solution if you only plan to drive the car for a few years before trading it in, back to the dealership.
Look Outside of Your Area
When you’re shopping for a previously-owned car, you may spend most of your time looking at local vehicles within 25 miles of your home. However, traveling outside of your city or state could save you thousands of dollars on a used vehicle. For instance, cities with the most affordable used car prices include the following:
- Miami, Florida
- Cleveland, Akron and Toledo, Ohio
- Stamford, Connecticut
- New York, New York
- Detroit, Michigan
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Providence, Rhode Island
- Worcester, Massachusetts
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In comparison, U.S. cities with the most expensive used car prices should also be noted. These include the below:
- Fresno, California
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Reno, Nevada
- Portland, Oregon
- Bakersfield, California
Avoid Costly Add-Ons
Even if you’re getting a great deal on a used vehicle, the salesperson may still try to entice you into upgrading your car with an entertainment system, better wheels or other unnecessary features, such as nitrogen-filled tires. For instance, the salesperson may also try to sell you a roof rack for your bike, theft protection packages, windshield, paint or dent protection or window-etching services. If you do plan on upgrading your used vehicle with these types of features, these add-ons will be a whole lot cheaper if you purchase them outside of the dealership.
Get Pre-Approved for Financing
Before you shop for a used car at a dealership, get pre-approved for an auto loan so you can use the cost of your financing as leverage to get a better rate on dealer funding. When negotiating your financing with a dealership, for instance, the dealer will either need to meet your pre-approval rate, or provide you with a better deal if they want to keep you as a customer. In addition to car dealerships, several other places to get an auto loan generally include banks, credit unions or other types of finance companies.
Shop on a Weekday
If you plan to purchase a previously-owned vehicle from a dealership, you’ll need to compete with other customers for the best deal. However, shopping during the dealership’s off-hours can help you to get a better deal on a used vehicle, since you’ll be competing with less people. Instead of visiting the dealership during its busiest shopping hours (such as a night or weekend), head in during the day.
Use the TrueCar Mobile App
Before you shop for a used car, download the TrueCar mobile app to your smartphone to find out how much vehicles are selling for at any of the 15,000 TrueCar-Certified dealerships in the U.S. To use the app, simply scan a vehicle’s window sticker to learn more about its estimated selling price in comparison to the market average.
Moreover, other car-buying smartphone apps are also available for download. For instance, apps such as Cars.com, Instamotor, Autolist, CarMax, Edmunds, Used Car Search Pro, and Car Buying by KBB are all available to help you compare prices on used vehicles and find the best deal.
Order a Vehicle History Report
There are several benefits to ordering a vehicle history report before purchasing a previously owned automobile. Not only will a vehicle history report allow you to look for suspicious activity and other red flags pertaining to the vehicle’s past, but you can use any of the unpleasant information you find to negotiate for a better deal on the automobile. Plus, ordering a vehicle history report will help you to feel more confident in your decision to purchase the vehicle. If the report reveals any red flags about the automobile’s past, you may feel that the vehicle is not worth your money, and you can choose to walk away from the transaction.
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