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A St. Louisan’s Guide to Buying Used Cars

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Interested to purchase a used car? This is the right time to do it. Used car prices are at their lowest in four years, and are expected to dip even further. If you would like to take advantage of the current prices of pre-owned vehicles and make your purchase soon, continue reading. Found below are tips to buying used cars.

 

Set a budget

The first step to buying a used car—or any car for that matter—is setting a budget. Know what you can afford before you start looking around. This is most important if you will be financing the car. Use a car loan calculator to help you with the computation of the monthly payment and down payment. When determining affordability, think not only of the loan but also costs like insurance, warranty, potential repair expenses and other ownership expenses. When you have set a budget, make sure to stick to it no matter what.

 

Do your research

Once you know what you can afford, it’s time to find out your options. Learn about used car models and their prices, engine sizes and mileages. There are many online sources you can use as references, including Edmunds.com, AutoTrader.com and Kelley Blue Book. Reading customer reviews will also help narrow down your list.

Even if you already have a car in mind, don’t skip this step. You should have at least three options. If your car choice is a popular one, consider its counterparts. These can be as reliable as your choice, and can be cheaper too.

 

Choose the right car

Consider your current and future needs when deciding on a particular model. Ask yourself a series of questions. Do you see yourself having a family in the near future? Will you be driving with a child soon? Would you need more room? Are there specific safety and/or storage features you will need? The answer to these questions will allow you to make the right choice.

After you’ve decided on a car, investigate its history. Use CarFax and AutoCheck as references to get important information. Know if the vehicle has a salvage title, has been involved in an accident and has had major repairs.

 

Set a fair price

Find out the true value of the car you have chosen before you go shopping. This is most crucial when you apply for an auto loan.

 

Secure financing

If you are not paying cash, it would be in your best interest to seek financing before heading to the dealer. You can apply for a loan at traditional sources like banks and credit unions or at online lenders like St. Louis Auto Approval Center. Know your credit score and get your credit report. Get quotes from different lenders to see which one offers the best deal.

 

Go to the dealership

Visit the dealership after you have gotten financing. Unless you are buying a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicle, you will need to inspect your car. Unlike other used cars on sale, CPOs undergo extensive inspection by licensed mechanics before they are sold. Drop by in morning so you can see the car in the light of day and therefore better assess its condition. Do a thorough inspection—check the interior, exterior, tires, wheels, under the hood, underneath the car. If you don’t know much about cars, bring along a mechanic you trust.

Make sure to test drive the vehicle, and not just for a couple of minutes. Take time to drive it through your daily route. Assess the car based on acceleration, braking, cornering, engine noise (and other squeaks and rattles), suspension, visibility and even cargo space.

 

Negotiate on price and close the deal

Come prepared to haggle and negotiate. Negotiate on the purchase price and not the monthly payment or down payment. If you aren’t satisfied with the deal, walk out. As long as you haven’t signed papers, you are free to leave. Don’t negotiate if you are tired and/or hungry. Refuse add-ons and aftermarket services.

Read the contract carefully before signing on the dotted line. Make sure there isn’t anything included that you didn’t agree to.

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