Things to do when buying a used car

person talking to a used car salesman

8 things to do when buying a used car

Buying a used car requires careful consideration and thorough research to ensure you make the right choice. Whether you're a first-time buyer or a seasoned car owner, following a step-by-step approach can help you navigate the process smoothly.

1. Get pre-approved for an auto loan before shopping

Before you start visiting car dealerships, be sure to get pre-approved for an auto loan. With a pre-approval, you’ll save a considerable amount of time by skipping the financing negotiation step at the dealership.

Once you're ready to start on your shopping, be sure to take advantage of AutoSMART to find used cars that fit your needs from Southland-approved used car dealers.

2. Calculate how much you can afford to spend 

Once you have been pre-approved for your auto loan, it's time to evaluate your finances and figure out how much you can comfortably afford to spend on a used car. Consider your monthly budget, including factors such as fuel costs, insurance, maintenance and unexpected repairs. 

3. Decide on your must-have features

Make a list of the essential features you want out of your used car. Consider factors like fuel efficiency, safety features, cargo space, seating capacity and any other technology or comfort options. Knowing your priorities will narrow down your choices and make choosing a car a bit easier. 

4. Test drive potential cars on the street and freeway

A crucial step in evaluating a used car's condition is taking it for a test drive. Drive the vehicle on both local streets and the freeway to get a sense of its performance. Pay attention to the engine, brakes, steering, suspension and overall handling. Be sure to also test out other features like the radio, seat adjustments, lights, doors, windows, locks and more to make sure they work as promised. 

5. Have the car checked by a mechanic before purchasing

To minimize the risk of buying a used car with hidden issues, have it thoroughly inspected by a trusted mechanic. A professional evaluation can identify potential problems that might not be apparent during your test drive. They can assess the car's mechanical condition, check for any signs of previous accidents or damage and provide you with an honest assessment.

6. Run a vehicle history report

Obtaining a vehicle history report is an important step that will help you understand a used car's background. Services like Carfax or AutoCheck can provide comprehensive information about the car's ownership history, previous accidents, maintenance records and even mileage discrepancies. This report helps you make an informed decision and avoid purchasing a vehicle with a problematic history.

7. Know what warranties the car has

When buying a used car, it's essential to understand what warranties, if any, are still valid. Some used vehicles may still have the remaining portion of the manufacturer's warranty, while others may have extended warranties or service contracts. Being aware of the available warranty coverage can provide peace of mind and save you from unexpected expenses down the road.

8. Know how your new car will impact your car insurance 

Before finalizing the purchase, contact your insurance provider to understand how your new car will affect your insurance premiums. Factors such as the car's make, model, year, safety features and theft rates can impact your insurance rates. By getting this information in advance, you can budget accordingly.

Taking time to research now saves you money in the future

Buying a used car is a significant investment, and taking the time to follow these steps can help you find a reliable vehicle that suits your needs and budget. By being thorough, you can make a well-informed purchase that will last.