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10 tips for buying a used vehicle

16th December 2020 Print

There are many good reasons to buy a used vehicle. If you’re looking for a used vehicle for personal use, you can save money. You’ll have a wider range of options. And you might even be able to reduce your environmental impact. 

If you’re buying a semi-truck as a commercial vehicle for your business, buying used can provide even more benefits. You can reduce your business risk, lower the amount of capital you need, and still get a reliable vehicle for your transportation needs. 

In either case, you’ll need to follow some important advice to buy a used vehicle safely and reliably. 

Tips for Buying a Used Vehicle 

Follow these tips if you want a better deal (and a better used vehicle): 

1. Start with a budget. First, it’s a good idea to set a budget. How much are you willing to spend on a vehicle, and how far are you willing to stretch that if you find a good fit? This will help you determine which types of vehicles to look for and will help you decide when to walk away if negotiations don’t go your way. 

2. Understand the makes and models available. Once you have a budget in place, you can start looking at different makes and models that might fit within that budget. What type of vehicle are you looking for? Are there specific features that are must-haves? What kind of safety rating do you want? How old of a vehicle are you willing to get? Look up some prices to begin your research. 

3. Know where you’re buying. Next, figure out where you’re going to buy, and consider keeping your options open. There are many used vehicle dealerships to choose from, and you can also turn to online platforms like eBay. On top of that, you can find individual sellers in classified ads and through networking. The important thing is to find a seller you can trust. 

4. Accurately estimate prices. When you have an idea of what kind of vehicle you may want, you’ll want to do more research on the price. Kelley Blue Book is still the top standard for pricing new and used vehicles but get estimates from multiple sources to see if there are any differing opinions. You don’t want to pay more than is generally considered fair. 

5. Check vehicle history. When you start looking at individual models, run a vehicle history report. This will tell you a number of details about the vehicle’s history. For example, you’ll learn when it changed hands. You’ll learn about any accidents in which it was involved. You’ll also learn about major repairs, recalls, and other bits of information that can help you determine whether this vehicle is truly worth buying. 

6. Work with the seller. Start talking to the seller. Bring up the vehicle history report and make sure they know what you know. Most sellers are incentivized to sell vehicles quickly and painlessly, so be honest with them about your goals and hard limits. 

7. Inspect the vehicle. The vehicle history report is a good start, but you’ll still want to inspect the vehicle manually to determine if it’s up to your standards. Even if you don’t have much automotive repair experience, you should be able to tell if there are major rust spots or if the vehicle looks in poor condition overall. Have a professional inspect the vehicle if you’re serious about ensuring you get a good deal. 

8. Take it for a test drive. Next, take the vehicle for a test drive. Even if you only drive it a few miles, you’ll get a feel for how it performs—and you’ll be able to determine if there are any glaring safety or performance issues. 

9. Negotiate on price. Once you have all the information in front of you, it’s time to negotiate. Ask for a lower price, based on the information you’ve researched and the current condition of the vehicle, and be prepared for pushback. If you remain firm, calm, and confident, you can likely get a better deal on the vehicle. 

10. Get a warranty (if you can). Finally, ask if there’s a warranty available. Many sellers are willing to support their vehicles after they’ve been purchased. This helps to protect your financial investment, should something go wrong in the near future. 

Buying Future Vehicles

Buying your first used vehicle is often the most difficult, since you may not know what to expect. But once you get that experience under your belt, future used vehicle purchases will be much easier to manage. Consider the lessons you learned when you bought your first vehicle, and apply those to all your vehicle purchases in the future.