It is finally here.
On the day that the last kid in your house is finally out of school you can declare that the summer vacation has started. This summer, however, you have a pretty big task in front of you. While you no longer have to make sure your 14-year old daughter is at school for a couple of months you do need to find a vehicle for your 19-year old daughter who is in college. She had a brand new leased sedan until someone ran through a red light and totaled her car. Luckily, she was not hurt and the insurance company found the other driver at fault, but you are back to ground zero again deciding on a car. This time around you have decided to buy a pre-owned vehicle for her to drive.
Before making the final decision to buy a pre-owned vehicle, however, you have created yourself a list of guidelines:
Use all of your resources. Sometimes if you let enough people know that you have a need for a used car, someone might offer you a good deal. Your father, for example, may be excited about having your son or daughter drive his pick up that he was getting ready to trade in. For a fraction of the cost of purchasing a used car that you know little about you may be able to get your hands on a vehicle that was carefully cared for by your father.
Select a model. Many families begin their used car search by looking for a make and a model that they are familiar with. For example, you might consider purchasing a used car similar to one your teen driver has driven before. It may not, for instance, be the best idea to have your daughter go from driving one of the Ford Focus cars to driving much larger models like the Ford F-350 trucks.
Excellent service record. You may not be able to achieve this, but great cars often come with details of excellent service. Previous owners who keep track of all oil changes and tire rotations are drivers who have likely taken very good care of their vehicle. It may not be quite as good as buying from your father, but this is a close second.
Depend on a mechanic. You may not always be able to be certain about how the previous owner cared for their car. You can, however, have a certified mechanic check out the purchase before you buy. The decision to buy a pre-owned vehicle takes a little bit of faith. You might as well put your faith in an impartial mechanic rather than a car sales person who is trying to meet a quota.
Create a budget. Sometimes it is easy to get so caught up in the used car buying experience that you forget to think about all the budget implications. You are likely making a used car purchase because you are trying to save money. Avoid getting caught up in the used vehicle options and forgetting about the extra details like the cost of licensing fees and insurance.
Ask your questions. You do not need to be rude, but do not be so polite you are hesitant to ask what you really want to know. This is especially true if you are make the decision to buy a pre-owned vehicle from an individual owner. Has the car been in an accident? What is that strange smell, did the kids spill mils all over the back seat? What have they liked the most and what have they liked the least about this car? The answers to the questions that go unasked may come back to haunt you.
Research the price. With the internet it is pretty easy to find out what a fair asking price is for almost any vehicle. By knowing the make, model, milage, and year, several car value calculators can give you a pretty good price range. Most buyers do this research as well so even though you are looking for a used car, it is very likely that you will need to pay a fair price. Paying more than the value of the car though makes little sense if you take time to do your research.