Whether you’re buying a used car from someone who put an ad in the local paper, or heading to the dealer to test drive shiny new cars, there are a few things you should know before you drive away in any vehicle other than one you brought with you.
- What’s your budget? Figure out what you can afford before you even go looking, and don’t torture yourself by test driving things that are beyond your price range. Planning to finance or lease your car? Get approved before you go to the lot, and remember that you are not required to use the dealer’s financing. Also, don’t forget to factor insurance costs into your budget.
- Know what you want. Are you looking for a racy sport coupe for weekend trips to the beach, or a family sized SUV with room for three kids and all their stuff? Figure out what you want before you leave home. It will save you time, later.
- Trade or sell? Have an old car you need to get rid of? A trade-in isn’t always the way to get the most money. Consider selling it outright, or, if money isn’t an object, even consider donating it to charity.
- Research, research, research. Arm yourself with knowledge about the makes and models you’re considering, either the old fashioned way (books and magazines) or by reading information on the ‘net. If you’re buying a used car, make sure you research any known issues or recalls, and make sure any applicable issues were resolved. Also, don’t forget to ask for an accident report.
- Test drive in real world circumstances. If your normal commute involves idling at long lights, make sure you let the car idle. If you usually have kids or computers to contend with, bring them with you when you test drive. (Sadly, you can’t test drive with pets, but you can bring a crate to make sure it will fit).