How to Buy Used Cars? A Definitive Guide to Buy an Excellent Used Car Without Overpaying

Before we answer this commonly asked question, just think about what is better for you. It is obvious that you have 2 options; a brand-new car or a used car. As a well known fact, buying a brand-new car can make you lose some money because the price of the brand-new car will be depreciated as soon as you buy that new car, but buying a used car can make you avoid that depreciation.

With a large selection of used cars nowadays, there is no greater value than buying a used car. However, it is also the highest risk, especially if you have no idea about what you should do to get the best deal without getting scammed by the unscrupulous people who are ready to cheat you. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you arm yourself with all the needed research and collecting the most possible information about the specific used car you wish to buy.

Buying a used vehicle is a big challenge, especially if you have no idea about the car you are going to buy, so it’s highly recommended that you take your time to collect the needed information and research via the internet to arm yourself before going into the battle of buying used cars. To avoid the pitfalls of buying used cars, do your research online and through multiple dealerships and used car lots.

According to my research there are easy, but powerful steps that will enable you to buy the used car you need. Read them carefully and imagine yourself doing them while reading to memorize them quickly and to be able to implement them effectively in the real life to get the best deal like never before.

Consider the benefits of buying a used car

According to the experts at Kelly Blue Book, “In three years a brand-new car could depreciate by as much as 73 percent of its value. At the best it will retain only 62 percent of its value after three years. That’s one major advantage to buying a used car.”. Therefore, why do you throw money away with buying a brand-new car while you can get a high-quality and recent model used car.

Here are some other good reasons that encourage you to do that:

Skillful used car buyer can explore bigger deals.

Certified used cars are widely being sold nowadays, such as certified pre-owned cars which you can purchase with peace of mind because they have been thoroughly inspected and are covered by warranties.

Used cars are now more reliable than ever before.

Used cars from 1 to 3 years old are generally still covered by factory warranty.

You can find the history of the used car by using the car VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and by using the vehicle history report. And you can get that report easily from CARFAX or Autocheck.

Online, you can check the safety ratings and crash tests for almost any used car.

Set a budget for your purchase

Next, you will need to consider how to finance the car before you go for shopping. Use online tools to help you with that and make a financial plan that suits your budget. Experts at edmunds.com say “Make sure that your monthly payment does not exceed 20 percent of your salary”. It is essential to see how much your specific car really costs. Tools like True Market Value (TMV), True Cost to Own (TCO) on edmunds.com and website like kbb.com will help you with that.

By using affordability calculator and other online calculators, you can determine how much you can pay as a monthly payment. Determine how much you can pay as a down payment for the car if you are going to take out a car loan. It is important to realize that you will not pay only the car price, but you should also consider the other costs of vehicle ownership, such as insurance rates, extended warranties, maintenance, and fuel costs.

There are two ways to buy a used car; either you pay cash or you take out a loan. Taking a loan to buy a car is also called financing the car. You can finance for your used car through a bank, online lender, credit union, or a dealer. It is highly recommended that you finance through the first three, especially bank and online lender.

Choose the right used car

Used car buying has become very popular nowadays, so you will find a large selection of car models to choose from. Search on T.V, magazines, internet or at used car dealerships. Consult friends or relatives. Nowadays the Internet has become the most valuable tool. You can research the large selection of different car models and prices.

Make a list of several used car models that you are interested in and then narrow your list down to 3 or 4 cars. Before you take your list of preferred cars and go to the dealership or private party to purchase, research the car and collect as much information about the car as you can to arm yourself with all the needed knowledge that will save you money and make you get the great deal without getting scammed.

Before you decide on the car model, you should decide whether you will pay the price of the car in cash or you will finance on the car and pay monthly payments. Ask yourself does that car suit your needs? How big you want the car? Does it have headroom and legroom for you and the other passengers? How many passengers will ride in it? Do you need cargo room or towing capacity?

Once you have decided the right model or body style that is excellent for you, you should start collecting detailed information about that specific used car using its VIN. The VIN is included in many online car listings. Websites such as CARFAX OR Autocheck can help you do so easily. Use this VIN to get the vehicle history report which is vital to know the overall condition and history of the car. You will know whether that specific car has ever been totaled, flooded, stolen or whether the odometer has been rolled back.Those are essential information when you consider buying used cars.

If you want to save money, read the consumer reports and car reviews of the model that you are interested in. Compare Kelly Blue Book values, research resale values. By doing your research up front, you can avoid any model if it has a potential issue.

Best places to find used cars

There are a lot of places where you can find used cars, such as online websites, CarMax, dealerships, Auctions, and private party. Each place has its own pros and cons.The certified pre-owned cars are the most expensive used cars. If you want to know more about them you can check out the certified pre-owned vehicle programs at edmunds.com. Make sure that you do not buy a lemon used car.

Test drive and inspect the used car

Test driving and inspecting the used car that you have decided to buy is a very important factor in determining whether or not you proceed with your purchase, you may keep this vehicle for years to come, so make sure that the car is reliable and high performance. Try it in different roads to explore any potential problems you may find later, after you will have bought it.

After you collected the necessary information about the car, contact the seller and arrange an appointment to test drive the used car.When you go to test drive the car, bring along a mechanic because it is highly recommended that you take a mechanic with you to inspect the used car.

When you test drive the car, make sure that the engine is cold because doing that will show you whether there are any chronic issues or not. Bear in mind that it is your chance to test the car, so take your time to judge whether it is a good fit and it is in a good condition or not. Consider the following:

How does it feel when you drive the car?

How does it feel on bumpy roads?

Does the car have the acceleration levels you want?

What about the suspension, is it comfortable and even?

Does the car pull to one side or another or not? If it pulls, so it may be a problem with alignment or brake. Consider trying the brake.

Does the car inside have enough headroom and legroom for everyone who will ride?

While you are driving turn off the radio or C.D player to focus on the driving experience and to be able to hear any unusual noise especially from the engine.

Make sure that you get the service records from the seller or dealer. Stay away from the used cars that have been in a serious accident or that have been undergoing major repair work such as engine overhauls, valve jobs or transmission rebuilds. You should also check the VIN of the car, it is located in many places on the car depending on the car model. Make sure that all of the VIN plates on the car are matched not mismatched. Take a trusted mechanic with you to check things more accurately and professionally for you. If it is a CPO (certified pre-owned car) there is no reason to take a mechanic with you because those kinds of cars have undergone a thorough inspection before they have been brought for sale.

Negotiate the price

Your negotiation will largely depend on your research and the information that you have collected from famous car websites and dealerships. Stick to the prices that you have on hand in your list and show the price quotes to the dealer or the private seller to make them feel that you are educated buyer, so they cannot overprice the used car.

Read carefully before you sign

Before you sign, read carefully the clauses of the contract. It is recommended that you take a lawyer with you to finalize the paperwork for you. Avoid signing “as is” when buying a used car, because once you sign that, any problem with the car becomes yours. If you have to do that, make sure that you researched the information and got the Vehicle History Report on the used car. Make sure that any promises are written not just spoken.

Finally, by doing the above steps, you will become the educated buyer who knows exactly how to buy an excellent used car and how much you can expect to pay for it.

Car Night Driving Tips (Tricks, Tips and Driving Guide for Beginners)

STAY CALM AND FEARLESS

Have a relaxed mindset, and never panic during your night driving. Being fearless and sticking onto the road rules would make you half a way through the journey. We have seen some new drivers, who panic in some situations causing them to applying break forcefully, shaking the gear leaver to know in which number of gear they are in or clicking the viper blades or indicators coming in action when they panic. Try not to be that, stay calm and do your actions.

Keep your windshield clean. Remove off the stains, dried drops, smudges, finger prints, dust and greasy matters to have a clear vision of the road in the night driving glare. First, lift the vipers from the bonnet using your hand and de-dust it, then pour a sufficient amount of water all over the windshield and allow draining. Now, use your viper gear to clean the windshield by squeezing the detergents stored under the hood. Following these steps will make you to avoid mild scratches on your wind glasses and have a clear vision on the road.

Applying the viper as such to clean the windshield may swipe up the dirt and mud particles accumulated around the blades and can cause permanent scratches on your windshield.

GLARY NIGHT VISION AT NIGHT DRIVING

Additional care should be paid for car driving, especially by the beginners to moderate skilled drivers during night times, than during the day. Driving the car at night times seems to be a scary part for many drivers due to the glary vision of the opposite vehicle that leads them blind for some microseconds when passing by. Keep in mind, glary visions are the main dangers of driving at night.

For this, avoid seeing the light beams of the opposite vehicle and concentrate on the road space required for the lively movement of your car during the exact crossing time of the opposite vehicle. While crossing, if you are not sure about the road, don’t apply, but be ready to pedal on the brake, particularly when you travel on the road where you handled some patches and damages already.

LOW/HIGH BEAM LEVER

Use your high and low beam indicator wisely. Use high beams at night driving only when you see no cars on the opposite side. Flipping from low to high beam for a while can actually help you in finding the pot holes, humps, broken ridges and the damaged roads even at long distance with a shadowed vision.

Pull down the high beam to low level to make your nearby road visible while you pass the opposite vehicle on the same road. This on the other hand, indicates the opposite vehicle driver to do the same, so that both the drivers may have a better vision in low beam (some drivers don’t obey this and no need to worry about it). If you head other vehicles coming opposite continuously, try to be in the low beam position. This will help the opposite driver to have his vision properly without your high beam.

KEEP YOUR VISION LONG

Keep your eye sights long to the end of the road covering almost all the area of your road. Try to understand this. When you drive in dark, try to keep your sight sticking to the regions as your car head lamps explore new areas of the roads. Actually, this will help us to have some time to react when we find some abnormalities on the roads like, humps, potholes, speed breakers and etc.

PARKING LIGHT FOR ROUGH ROADS

Roads are always associated with patches and damages contributing to small to large damages to the vehicle. In some bad cases, a neat, smooth road ends all of a sudden and continues to be a bad, damaged roads with pits and hard rocks. This is often faced during the night driving time causing the car more vulnerable to hurt, especially when you drive at a constant high speed. When you face such situation, slowing your car immediately may harm your car, as the vehicles following you don’t expect this from you. In such cases, switch your parking light in one hand and this can indicate the drivers coming behind you to control their speed without hitting your car’s back.

I have tried this many a time where I felt safe.

Especially, when you lead on a road followed by three or four vehicles behind you at constant speed wouldn’t expect you to stop or slowing suddenly for a bad scenario in the middle of the road unexpectedly. Sometimes running your car on the damages roads is better than getting hit by the rear following vehicles.

If you want to stop your car crisply in such cases, cut down your speed from 100 km/h till it reaches to 60-50km/h and release the brake and re-press the brake pedal hardly once again will make your car stop safely. Not to harm your co-passengers, give signal to your passengers on emergency braking.

SLEEPY DRIVERS

Sleepy drivers are really the dangerous giant in the roads of both day and night driving whom we need to get rid of. But more often, the vulnerability is higher at night times due to less traffic and perfect time to sleep, especially for those who are tired of driving from long distance. Even research has been done on this and found that tiresome drivers take micro sleep for 6 to 10 seconds without their knowledge.

Giving a short horn during overtakes, particularly for long vehicles like trucks, lorry, buses and etc., would add another layer of safety for you. Pressing the horn for twice would make the truck driver to have a notice on you and your activities.

OVERTAKE USING OTHER CAR WINDSHIELD

Sometimes we see groups of vehicles flocks together on overtaking heavy loaded or long vehicles. In such situations, based on the chance of crossing one another, you may have to remain in the flock by driving at slow speed for a while. Later the group gets disperse as vehicles move ahead overtaking one after another. In such cases, we might continue to stay in the same lane, while one or two other vehicles of same lane direction would move to the opposite lane to overtake. If you are among the one behind the vehicle travelling in the opposite lane, it is more responsible job for you to have your safety.

Sometimes the overtaking vehicle would come back into its own lane, while heading another vehicle on the opposite lane. Also, the overtaking driver may have time and space only for his vehicle to pass on, where you might end up in trouble following him on the opposite lane. This generally happens to many drivers when they lose their patience in staying in the flock of vehicles for some time. During overtakes, as you have a vehicle before you, try to see through his windshield to get an idea about the opposite lane vehicle. This can actually help you to have some extra time to decide to slow down or coming back to your lane again

SHORT HORN SOUNDS

Give short horns at regular intervals (pom pom pom) than pressing the horn to give a long press (poooooooom). This might sound funny, but it actually works. Especially, when we get in contact with other roads passing across or the road that connects to the highways. Giving such short horns would make the people to notice about your car coming being ready to cross the road.

Some roads are broad for long distance and later divides into two roads, while a short half a meter height divider separates two roads which has blurred marking or with no reflector stickers. This type of dividers is risky specifically when they start after coming down from a bridge. All kinds of such problems are not such a big problem in daylight, however, in the night driving, especially when we travel on the new roads, it is highly important. So beware of short divider.

TURNING ROADS AND BAD CURVES

Turning roads are actually a trap for us, it seems simpler than they actually appear. This is not about the hair-pin bending where we would not be at a pace of speed.
When you don’t get the vision of the bending road, for sure be alert and bring the speed down is on the safer side. Never misjudge the road curve for our safety measures. At times, some open land roads have some treats like, that we might not know whether the road bends to the right or left until you reach closure. Make sure you stick on to the lane and pull down the speed in such situation without being panic.

EMPTY WATER BOTTLE

Having juices and beverages on travel might add a great value for the journey, however small bottles of less than a litre may cause some trouble if it is on the floor unnoticed in dim light, as they may run in between the three pedals. But no need to remember a horror scene whenever you see a pet bottle in the car, rather just keep an eye on them when you are handling them.

BE A REAL HERO

When you feel sleepy, never hesitate to leave the driver’s seat for the sake prestige or fame. A real driver never takes chances in collapsing the whole happy journey or the fun of driving a car. Feeling tired and sleepy after a long continuous drive is actually a human nature and some of us really feel shame telling we feel sleepy and handing over the car to our spouse or friends. Most accidents happening at night time are higher due to lack of sleep of the drivers which is bad for us and others too.

Be Cautious Where You Take Your Classic Car or Muscle Car

Classic car owners, including those with muscle cars, street rods, hot rods, antiques and vintage trucks, are facing uncertain times as car thefts are on the rise, and actions from thieves are becoming more bold and brazen.

I recently came across a story written by a man who owned a Daytona Blue 1963 Corvette Coupe with all matching numbers. The all-original classic sport car had an immaculate dark blue interior where only the carpet had ever been replaced. The 327 engine was said to produce a rhythmic loping that not only brought a smile to your face, but got you day dreaming of having this beauty parked in your own garage. Then disaster strikes and you’re snapped out of your dream and into his nightmare!

The owner of this beautiful piece of American history took his prized car to what he called a small “backwoods” show that a friend and he decided to go to in the spur of the moment. As owner Jacob Morgan, of Bakersfield, CA described, “The event was an annual but rather unofficial gathering of classic car buffs and I was thrilled to bring my car down. Unfortunately, the part of Florida that the event was being held was extremely dry due to drought. About three or four hours after arriving, a man who owned a red GTO (I could not tell you the year because frankly I did not care afterward) decided to start up his ride for the spectators. It was just one backfire but it was enough to start the dry grass ablaze–and guess where my Corvette was parked?

Nearly thirty classic cars were consumed by the blaze started by that backfiring GTO and my Corvette was one of them. Of course I had the car properly insured but they just aren’t making 1963 Corvettes any longer and the only one I could find that was similar cost $10,000 more than my policy’s payoff. I guess if there is a moral to my sad tale, it is to avoid backwoods car shows at all costs because they are unregulated, disorganized, and very dangerous to classic cars like my beloved 1963 Corvette Coupe.”

This may not be your traditional way of losing your prized classic car, muscle car, street rod, antique car, vintage truck or other collectible old vehicle, but it does drive home the point that we need to exercise care in even the most innocent surroundings like a car show! Freak accidents like Mr. Morgan experienced can and do account for many losses to enthusiasts – not just theft or vandalism.

Sadly though, theft isn’t a rare thing and the methods are becoming more bizarre. Guy Algar and I have had pieces stolen off one of our own vehicles that we were towing back to our shop while we stopped for a quick bite to eat! We’ve had a good number of hubcaps taken over the years. And, we actually had the brake lights ripped off of our car hauler while we were in a parts store one day picking up parts for a customer! We’ve had one customer tell us the story where he had taken his wife out to dinner and had carefully parked his 1969 Corvette at a local restaurant, under a big bright light, and in what appeared to be a “safe” area, only to come out 45 minutes to an hour later to find all his emblems and trim taken right off the car! Thieves have been known to take the entire car hauler (with the classic sitting on top) right off the tow vehicle’s hitch ball and transfer the hauler to their own tow vehicle when people are on the road, at a car show, or some other type of event. These are bold moves by people who do not fear the consequences.

Other thefts that have been reported around the country have included:

Dr. Phil just had his ’57 Chevy Belair convertible stolen from the Burbank repair shop he had brought it to for repairs.

A 1937 Buick, valued at over $100,000 was taken from a gated community parking garage in Fort Worth, Texas.

Tom of New Mexico reported the theft of two of his collector cars to Hemming. Tom owns about half a dozen collector cars altogether, and to store them all, he rented out a storage unit. Unfortunately, when he went to check on them recently, for the first time in about six months, he found that two were missing – a 1957 two-door Chevrolet Belair and a 1967 Mercury Cougar GT.

There was also a report of a man from Jefferson City, Missouri, who actually recovered his own stolen car, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro that had been stolen 16 years before, after seeing it in a Google search!

In a Los Angeles suburb, a woman came home to a garage empty of her prized 1957 Chevy Bel-Air which had been valued at more than $150,000. The beautiful convertible had been featured in several magazines and TV shows and won dozens of awards at car shows around the country. A neighbor’s surveillance camera caught the actions of the thieves and revealed that the Bel-Air was pushed down the street by a pickup truck which had pulled into her driveway just minutes after she had left. The thieves likely loaded it onto an awaiting trailer. It’s thought that the thieves spotting the car at one of the car shows, followed it home afterwards, then waited for the opportunity to steal it.

A Seattle collector was the victim of a targeted “smash-and grab” from the warehouse where he kept his cars. The thieves apparently ransacked the building and drove off with a 396/425 four-speed 1965 Corvette Stingray; and a 20,000-mile 396/four-speed 1970 Chevelle SS.

A 1959 Chevrolet Impala was stolen during a Cruise Night. The owner got good news-bad news when the police tracked down because while they did recover the classic car, he had put in a claim for the theft with his insurance policy after the theft many months before, so the car went to the insurance company rather than being returned to him. Apparently detectives recovered the Impala from a chop shop nearly eight months after it was stolen, repainted and modified.

Hemmings News also reported of a reader whose 1970 Ford Maverick was stolen from his home in Missouri. The car was found and returned, but the investigation apparently revealed that the thief had been watching the owner for 2 years, with the intention of stealing it and using it to race with. Chilling thing to find out.

A 1979 Buick Electra 225 Limited Edition was stolen out of a grocery store parking lot in suburban Detroit with the thief escaping with an urn inside the trunk that contained the remains of the owner’s stepfather!

After saving for over 40 years, a man from Virginia bought the car of his dreams, a 1962 Dodge Lancer. Buying his dream car, he began his restoration project, which was about 60 percent complete when he relocated to Texas. Without a garage to keep it in after his move, he stored it in a 24-foot enclosed trailer along with a 1971 Dodge Colt he planned to turn into a race car, and kept the trailer parked at a storage lot. At the end of July, the trailer and everything in it disappeared.

The last story actually has a happy ending because it was recovered due to alert shop owners being suspicious of person wanting to unload a Lancer for only $1,500 including the many boxes of parts. After some research, the owner was reunited with his car. Guy and I have been approached on numerous occasions by people wanting to sell their vehicles. Some have hardship stories and the callers are willing to unload the car for a real bargain. We’ve always walked from these offers, primarily because we’re not in the business of buying and selling cars (we’re not dealers or re-sellers), but also because we’re cautious of a “too-good-to-be-true” price. One call in particular did make us very suspicious, as the woman caller insisted that the sale had to be completed by Monday (she called our shop over the weekend) and the price was extremely low for a rather rare model Mustang. Alert shop owners can be instrumental in aiding in the recovery of stolen classic cars.

But not all stories have a happy ending like this. Classic cars, muscle cars and antiques can make their way to chop shops, end up damaged and abandoned, and even being re-sold on Internet sites such as eBay and Craigslist!

Just yesterday, I reported on a 1954 Chevy Pickup truck which was stolen from a woman’s driveway in Oklahoma City. (Ironically this article was already written and scheduled for release today when the news hit. I’ve added her case because, unfortunately, it emphasizes how common thefts have become.) She wisely reached out to the Hemmings community of enthusiasts for help. Hemmings.com has a huge following, referred to as “Hemmings Nation”, and appealing for help to a community of enthusiasts like this can be instrumental in helping to give vital information to police and authorities who can help track and recover a stolen classic car. We applaud the work that Hemmings does.

And, the methods that thieves are using, as you can see, are as varied as the types of vehicles! Even seemingly innocent little car shows and gatherings are places you need to exercise a little caution and care. As I reported in a July article, carjackings involving classic cars are even becoming more commonplace.

Surprisingly, in some cases, the Internet has been helpful in aiding in the recovery of classic cars and muscle cars. There have been numerous stories, much like the Camaro owner above, and a man who found his 1949 Ford through a listing on Craigslist (the two men responsible were arrested and charged with disassembling a vehicle after the owner positively identified it as his) where owners have been able to locate their cars in Internet searches.

For those not so fortunate, insurance is the only consolation. We highly recommend classic car or “collector” car insurance. There are a number of companies that provide this specialized insurance, and it is generally well worth the cost. Classic Car News provided an article, Purchasing Classic Car Insurance, containing a list of companies along with links to contact them. I also recommend Hagerty Insurance’s publication, Deterring Collector Car Theft, which has tips on theft prevention.

In addition to the quick-strip thefts, thieves usually always alter, remove or forge VIN numbers, which make identification of the car or truck more difficult. Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) are serial numbers for vehicles that are used to differentiate similar makes and models. Much like social security numbers, every vehicle has a different VIN. VIN plates are usually located on the dashboard on newer cars, but are often found in the door jams of older models. VIN plates can be switched with another vehicle for a fast coverup.

The point here is to be aware of your surroundings, including where you park your car. Don’t take it for granted that just because you’re at an event with fellow enthusiasts that something bad can’t happen. Take preventive action by securing your old car or truck. Guy Algar suggests, “Don’t forget to take precautions even at home. You may feel safe parking your ride in ‘the safety’ of your two car garage, but remember, even if you don’t have windows where people can peer in and spot your valued car, thieves can also follow you home from work, a cruise, or even the grocery store and plan a theft after surveilling your home and learning your schedule. If you have a ride that catches people’s attention, remember that it can also catch the wrong attention!”

RESOURCES:

Hagerty Insurance – Deterring Collector Car Theft

Classic Car News – Purchasing Classic Car Insurance

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

The safety of your classic car or muscle car is extremely important to most owners. Everyone wants to protect their ride with methods that work, and that won’t bust the bank. We draw on the experience of experts in Classic Car News’ upcoming series entitled “Keep Our Rides Safe”, which appear each Wednesday. – Andrea

Andrea L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920′s through 1970′s. Her husband Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.