4 Tips For Buying Your First Used Vehicle
If you're shopping for a new vehicle, you know that the price tag on new cars and trucks can be intimidating. But buying used can solve that problem — and there are plenty of used cars that are as good as new without the new price tag. Even if your heart is set on a brand new car, it's worth browsing used models to see how they compare. Cars that are just a year or two old come with big price cuts, but aren't yet old enough that you need to worry about wear and tear.
However, shopping for a used car requires a bit more care than shopping for a new car. Here are five tips that will help you through the car-buying process.
Set a budget
While this is a necessary step whether you're buying new or used, it's important enough to repeat. Before you start shopping, you want to work out a budget. Think about how much you can afford for a monthly car payment and how long you would like to spend paying it off (loans typically range from 36 to 60 months). A longer loan means lower monthly payments but more paid in interest, while a shorter loan means higher monthly payments but less paid in interest. Pick the one that makes the most sense for your budget.
Don't forget to include incidental expenses in your budget, too: remember you need to pay for registration, insurance, maintenance costs, gas, and more. Though these costs often vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle, it’s important to remember them when you set your budget. Even if you're just estimating, these numbers will give you an idea of how much car you can afford — and skipping them could cause a budget crisis the first time you hit a repair bill.
Pick out your car
Now that you know what you can afford, it's time to start shopping. The internet is your friend here, making it easy to browse car dealers and advertisements online to see what's available.
Start by picking makes and models that suit your needs (and fit in your budget), then look at the trim levels and other features you need. Once you have an idea of what you're looking for, it's time to start searching for specific vehicles. Autotrader and CarMax are both reliable sites that offer used vehicles nation-wide. However, local car dealerships typically have plenty of used stock, too. Dealers will have vehicles that are "certified pre-owned" — often previously leased cars that are a few years old — which can even come with a dealer warranty. You'll usually pay more buying from a dealer, but you may find it's worth the peace of mind.
Once you've found a few possibilities, check their price against the Edmunds value, which will tell you if they're a good deal.
PRO-TIP: If you want to take out all of the work of searching, researching and valuating consider using a car buying service. PenFed’s Car Buying Service is powered by TrueCar and makes car buying easy. You’ll get the the advantage of hassle-free savings, TrueCar Price Reports and a Certified Dealer Network. Learn what others are spending so you can feel confident you’re getting a fair price. Upfront pricing helps keep you in control of your buying experience. It’s easy, search for your and finance with PenFed.
Check it out
The next step is seeing it for yourself. Call the seller and ask about the car's history and condition — if you're buying from an individual, this can give you useful information that wasn't in the advertisement — and then go check it out in person. In addition to looking over the car, you'll want to see a vehicle history report to know exactly where the car has come from (and whether it's been wrecked in the past, which could be a sign of future trouble). Next, it's time for a test drive. While a vehicle might seem perfect on paper, you really don't know if it's the right car for you until you've given it a drive. You spend a lot of time in your car, so it's important to get one that's comfortable for you, so drive it around to see how it feels.
If you aren't buying from a dealer, it's also important to get the car inspected by a trusted mechanic. Unless you're a car expert, this is the only way to know for sure if it's in good mechanical shape.
Negotiate a fair price
We already recommended that you look up the average price for the year, make, and model of the vehicle you're looking at — and now it's time to put that knowledge to work. If the price is higher than that average or the car isn't in great condition, talk to the seller. You can often negotiate a better deal, especially if you're well-informed.
Consider financing your vehicle with PenFed
The smartest thing you can do when buying a car is have financing lined up in advance. This means you can snatch up the car you want as soon as you find it — and you won't have to put up with any hard sell tactics that encourage you to get dealer financing.
PenFed offers used auto loans with APR as low as % when using PenFed’s Car Buying Service, making it easy to get into the car of your dreams. Find your car and Apply today!