It won't be a bargain if you have to spend a ton of money on repairs, so learn how to spot a lemon.
To complete this How-To you will need:
Step 1: Figure out how much you can spend
Figure out how much you can spend—either in cash or in monthly loan payments.
Tip: Don't forget about the costs of owning a car, like insurance and maintenance.
Step 2: Research models
Research the models you're considering. Car information websites will help you compare both the performance and long-term reliability of various cars.
Step 3: Locate car
Locate a car that you want to check out. Search used car lots, classified ads, car dealerships that sell pre-owned vehicles, and special used-car publications and websites.
Step 4: Ask seller about condition
Ask the seller about the general condition of the car, including mileage, extra features, and whether service records are available.
Tip: If you're buying the car from an individual, ask if he or she is the original owner and the reason for selling the car.
Step 5: Inspect & test-drive
Inspect the car and test-drive it. You want to make sure that it performs well, runs smoothly, and feels right.
Tip: Don't let the seller rush you through the test-drive.
Step 6: Find out if warranty included
Find out if the car comes with a warranty.
Tip: If a warranty isn't included, have a mechanic inspect the car for you. Let the seller know that the sale is contingent on a professional inspection.
Step 7: Get vehicle history report
Get a vehicle history report from one of the companies that sell them online. See if the vehicle has been damaged in an accident or flood—and if the odometer may have been rolled back.
Step 8: Find out worth
Find out how much the car is worth by consulting online used car guides or visiting the library.
Step 9: Negotiate
Negotiate. Using the market value of the car as a guide, make an offer on the low end. Don't be afraid to walk away.
Tip: If you're trading in your car or having a dealership arrange financing, negotiate the price of the car before you discuss trade-in value and financing to assure you get the best deal.
Step 10: Close the deal
Close the deal. If you're buying from a private seller, make sure you get the title. Register your new vehicle with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
Tip: If you're buying from a dealership, they will handle most of the paperwork for you. Just make sure you read any contracts or paperwork carefully.
Step 11: Drive home
Drive home in your swank new ride.
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