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How to Buy a Used Car or Truck
Develop a list of possible candidates for your next vehicle and do some research in consumer magazines and on-line at sites like Edmunds.com about their the cost, reliability, safety ratings, gas mileage and features to help you choose the right one for you.
Step 2: Research how much you should pay.
Look up what the vehicle that you are interested in is currently worth. The Edmunds.com "True Market Value (TMV)" will give you a good idea of how much you should pay for it in your area right now. You can look up your vehicle's TMV by visiting the "Used Vehicle Appraiser" at Edmunds.com. It's also not a bad idea to look for similar vehicles in classified ads in your local newspaper or on-line to get a feel for what the car or truck that you want it worth.
Step 3: If financing, get pre-approved.
If you are not paying cash for your new vehicle, you are going to have to finance it. Make sure to get pre-approved to finance the car or truck that you want prior to doing any shopping. If you end up purchasing from a dealer your pre-approved rate will give you an idea of what sort of interest rate to expect and it will often motivate dealers to beat the rate that you have in hand. If you end up purchasing from a private party, you're going to need to secure financing on your own anyhow.
Step 4: Find the car or truck that you want.
Now that you know what you want, how much it should cost, and have arranged to pay for it, it's time to physically find your next vehicle. You can do so by visiting dealers, visiting used car superstores, looking for private party classified ads both in your local paper and on line at sites like AutoTrader.com and eBay Motors, and even by visiting rental car companies.
Step 5: Inspect the vehicle that you're interested in.
Once you have found a vehicle that you are interested, inspect it. It never hurts to make up a checklist of items that you want to take a close look at before you go.
Step 6: Test drive the vehicle.
It goes without saying that one should always test drive any used vehicle that they are considering purchasing. When you do so, make sure to take the car or truck that you are considering getting out in various conditions like on hills, on highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
Step 7: Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.
You may want to consider having a mechanic that you choose check out the vehicle that you are interested in. You can find one in the Yellow Pages or by asking friends and relatives. If purchasing you are from a dealer and they won't let you take the car or truck off the lot, there are mobile inspection services out there that you can use. It is very important that you are absolutely positive that you are comfortable with your deal, because contrary to popular belief there is no three day return period period on used vehicles. Once you have paid for and driven off in your car or truck, it's yours to keep.
Step 8: Run a CarFax report on any vehicle that you are interested in.
It is always a good idea to run a CarFax Vehicle History report on any used car or truck that you are considering purchasing. Doing so may point out a car or truck that has had past problems, like been in a flood, had the odometer rolled back, or been in a severe accident. If you plan on shopping around at a number of places for your vehicle, you can sign up on-line at CarFax.com, to get Unlimited CarFax reports on vehicles for a specific period of time.
Step 9: Ask about any remaining warranty.
Make sure to find out if the vehicle that you want has any remaining original warranty, a Certified Pre-Owned warranty, comes with an extended warranty, or in the case of many private party sales is being sold as-is.
Step 10: Ask for the maintenance records.
It's also always a good idea to ask the selling party for the vehicle's maintenance records.
Step 11: Negotiate a selling price that you are comfortable with.
Finally, once you have decided that you want a car or truck you need to negotiate a selling price on it that you are comfortable with. Use the research that you did in Step 2 as a baseline for how much you are willing to pay. Start lower than you are willing to go, but don't be unreasonable. If are unable to negotiate a price that you are comfortable with, just walk away. It will show the party that you are dealing with that you are serious about letting the deal fall apart if your price isn't met. There are tons of used vehicles out there.
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