Ing + McKee

Shopping for a Used Car

September 21, 2022

Buying a previously owned car is a great way to save money when looking for your next vehicle. However, it does take a bit more legwork to find the right car for you. In addition, since factory warranties often do not extend to a car’s second owner, you need to take extra care to make sure the vehicle you are considering is safe and drivable.

Prepare to shop

The first item to consider when looking for a used car is your budget. While you are saving thousands of dollars compared to the cost of a new car, make sure to account for a down payment, car loan payments and insurance when evaluating the overall cost. Getting pre-approved for used vehicle financing is an important step to take before venturing forth to purchase a car. You’ll also need to pay for a vehicle inspection, title and other one-time fees.

Next, look at cars that meet your criteria and that fit in your budget. Sites like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book regularly publish rankings for used car safety, resale value and other information to help you make informed decisions. Be sure to look at used cars for sale in your area to understand pricing for specific makes and models.

Finally, consider where you will purchase your vehicle. Used car buyers have many options for finding vehicles, including:

  • Independent dealers
  • New car dealers
  • Private sellers

Find your car

If you have found a specific vehicle, request a vehicle history report. This report details accidents and other damage, as well as previous ownership information for the car you are considering.

Next, take a test drive – an extended one. Be sure to take the vehicle around curves, hills and bumps. Drive at both high (where permitted) and low speeds, and practice braking. If something doesn’t feel right, note it.

Finally, get an inspection. This step is often missed by buyers but is crucial to making sure you have a safe and usable car post-purchase. Take the vehicle to a qualified mechanic, who will professionally evaluate the car for a fee. Some mechanics may even take the vehicle for a test drive themselves to look for any problems you may have missed.

Certified pre-owned cars are a helpful midway point between new cars and many used cars. Often sold through dealer networks, these vehicles usually have lower mileage than other used cars and may still have a manufacturer warranty. In addition, since each vehicle receives a thorough inspection, you can feel confident that your car is safe and drivable.

Look for red flags

While some issues with used cars are obvious – rust, warning lights, moldy smell – others are more subtle. First, all used cars should be inspected to ensure they are safe to drive. If your seller refuses an inspection, reconsider the vehicle.

Although there are some necessary fees that come with the purchase of a used car, such as for transferring the title, make sure you take a look at an itemized list of fees and any additional expenses. Question anything that looks out of place.

When it comes to the actual purchase, if you feel you are being pushed, re-evaluate the situation. Do not get roped into add-ons or features you do not want. If the seller refuses to complete the purchase without these items, consider walking away.

Complete the purchase

Once you choose to make a purchase, work with the seller to negotiate a fair price. Remember to bring your notes from when you researched comparable vehicles, as well as your financing information. Be sure to account for the total cost of the car, including any extended warranties, down payment and insurance.

Finally, sign any paperwork, including title information, registration and any other provincial requirements. Keep copies of everything.

While purchasing a used car is often more complicated than purchasing a new car, it can help save you thousands. Taking the proper steps before and during the purchase process can help ensure you find the right car at the right price to meet your needs.

Auto insurance

If you are getting a loan to purchase the car, your lender will most likely require you have insurance coverage. And if you are buying from a dealership they will want proof of insurance before you drive off the lot.

Be sure to contact your insurance broker, they can give you the guidance you need to purchase the right auto policy or to add this vehicle to your existing policy.

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