As we’ve said before, buying a used car has many benefits that are tough to ignore. Just make sure when choosing a used car to perform your due diligence, so you can get a good deal on a reliable vehicle. If you’ve decided to go used, there are three major routes you can go through to buy the car: You can buy from a dealer at a used car lot, you can buy straight from the owner, or you can get a car through a car auction.
Used car dealers often get a bad name, but there are some honest ones out there that can help a specific kind of client. Just keep in mind some of the standard practices dealers do for each car that arrives on their lot to recondition it and make it look nice before you ever see it.
Whenever possible, dealers clean up any vehicles with industrial-grade cleaners and techniques that can make them look shiny and new. They are able to repair worn leather to make it look new, use waxes and polishes on the wheels and paint, do detailed vacuuming and seat/carpet refreshing with strong air fresheners, and remove water spots. If appearance is a crucial factor, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking car than one that’s gone through professional detailing by a dealer.
Because they put in so much effort into detailing the car and making it look as good as it can, they add the cost of that work into the cost of the car. Dealers also need to make money for themselves and/or the company with these sales, so add in that cost as well.
While dealer used cars generally cost more, most of them also offer financing options that can be crucial in a bind. Some have in-house options while others prefer you to go through another lender. Of course this will cost you interest, but it can be a necessary cost in your situation and one that is exclusive to dealers.
Because you’re dealing with individuals, there is an enormous variation between sellers. Some recognize a specific car by sound alone and some may have only heard the word “car” in conversation.
There are many people that make a living off buying used cars from other people for cheap, fixing them up and making them look nice, then selling them for a profit. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a good deal from a car flipper; often, an experienced mechanic can fix a problem easily and immediately increase the car’s value by double or even more, sometimes at very little cost to them. This can create a win-win for both you and the car flipper, as they make money without putting much into it and you get a deal you could never find at a dealer.
Like most valuable items, if a person doesn’t know what they have is valuable, they might not try and get much out of it. Since private parties can sell cars easily without any thorough inspections or appraisals, this means that you can get a great deal from someone that doesn’t know how much the vehicle is worth. However, this can also work to your disadvantage. People unfamiliar with cars may not know the trouble signs or think much of issues that could be serious but might have gone away briefly. Be sure do a detailed inspection of your own including driving the vehicle in conditions it will be used for before purchasing.
Choosing to buy from a private party also brings up the opportunity for scammers to try to swindle you. Sometimes if you buy from a dishonest used car dealer, you get stuck paying for an overpriced lemon, but with some scammers, you might not get a car at all. A common scam is to have several pictures of an underpriced vehicle and a story about someone that should be trustworthy like an army officer leaving the country. They may give you a story about wanting to sell their car cheap to help someone out. In reality, the scammer steals pictures of the people and the vehicle and says to wire them money and they’ll “ship” the vehicle to you. Once they get the money, you never hear from them again. Never purchase a vehicle without inspecting and starting it for yourself.
Auto auctions are a great choice for experienced mechanics or people that know their cars and what they’re buying and they provide unmatched deals.
Auto auctions can definitely get you a fantastic deal, but you can also lose money if you don’t know what you’re buying or don’t have the equipment to fix up a vehicle. Because of this, you should always try to attend a few auctions before bidding. Get a feel for how the process works so you can be prepared and not miss out on that great deal.
Unlike buying from a dealer or private party, you’ll almost always find some kind of good deal at any auto auction. While this can be a boon for someone who needs a great deal, you don’t have the same opportunity to test drive the car around like buying from a dealer or private party. Because of this, it’s best to research models of cars you want to buy as well as you can so you can be aware of specific issues or part lifetimes to make an informed purchase.
Many auctions allow for inspections of vehicles and let you start them up as long as you do so at a pre-determined time before the auction begins. Be sure to take advantage of this time. Your definition of “runs and drives” might be different than the auctioneer’s, so make sure you’re on the same page!
While most people have their own opinion on the best way to buy a quality used car, choose the way that’s best for you, your knowledge, and your circumstances. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each, then go and buy that car you’ve been waiting for!