You’ve heard that buying a used car makes more sense, but you may not know all the reasons why. On average, the cost of owning and operating a new car is almost $9,000 a year, according to AAA’s annual study. The biggest chunk of lost money comes from depreciation, as your new car loses value the minute you drive it off the lot. Buying used saves you money in both up-front costs and in the long run, but to make the most of your used car, you’ve got to find a smart deal. Here are three tips to help you out.
Don’t browse dealerships casually
If you’re early in the car-buying process, you may think to do a little browsing in-person. Unfortunately, a trip to your local used car dealership is not as casual as a trip to your local bookstore. You may want to just look around a little and not commit to anything, but the car sales specialist who greets you is going to feel a lot differently.
It’s a car salesman or saleswoman’s job to get you to commit to buying a car as quickly as possible, even if you’re not ready to negotiate prices yet. It’s a mistake to negotiate in-person at first rather than via phone or even online. If you start off by heading to a dealership, it may be harder for you to leave without purchasing. The sales team is counting on you getting caught up in the excitement of being in close physical proximity to a car you really want.
To avoid all of this, shop online first. Look at auctions instead of traditional dealerships. Auto Auction Mall lets you browse available cars while enjoying your morning coffee. You can be more methodical about what you want, without a car sales team hovering around you and trying to get you to take a test drive, as they should come a little later in the process.
Know your deal-breakers
Knowing what you don’t want can be just as important as figuring out what you do want. Some deal-breakers are obvious. If you can’t drive a standard, then you’ll need to get a car with automatic transmission, for instance.
Some people are willing to consider cars with salvage titles because they’re cheaper. But if you don’t want to go that route, focus on the safest used cars under a certain price point. These are especially good buys if you’re looking for something for a younger driver who doesn’t have a lot of road experience.
A deal-breaker means you should be ready to walk away if the car lot doesn’t have what you want. A simple, “Thanks, but we better not waste any of your time” should do the trick. If you don’t walk immediately, you might end up with a car that’s not right for you.
Shop with a friend
Bringing a friend can be one of the best ways to ensure you make the right purchase. You should bring someone who has a wealth of car information and knows about your personal taste.
The buddy system also works if you’re shopping online. That way, you can send your friend links to cars you like. They may think a car looks great, or they may be underwhelmed. If they are unimpressed, ask them why. It might be because they simply don’t like the color, or they might have heard bad reviews about that particular model. Either way, you’ve got a sounding board, and that’s incredibly valuable when you’re searching for a used vehicle to call your own.