How to Choose the Right Preowned Vehicle for You

Shopping for any vehicle can be intimidating. And making a big purchase that has about 30,000 parts which need to be in safe working order is not a small feat, but here are a few important pointers on how to pick the right new-to-you vehicle.

First, before you hit the lot – understand your needs. To do this, think about your current car and why you are looking to give it up. What bothers you about it – is it too small, would you prefer a smoother ride? It’s also helpful to think about the next few years in the vehicle you are about to purchase. Are you going to be starting a family in the near future, do you have pets you transport to the dog park? Do you have a long commute? You want to make sure you will be buying a reliable vehicle that meets your personal needs. It might be a good idea to shop online prior to visiting the dealership. Be sure you are getting exactly what you want – this is a big purchase that you will need to live with for a number of years to come.

Get a friend. Or a family member who knows cars. Or does a coworker currently drive a car you like? If so, talk to them about their vehicle. Find out what they love (or don’t). See if they’ll let you test drive their vehicle. This is a big help when trying to find the right car for you.

Find a car that looks good. It’s hard to tell if an engine is in top condition, but a decent way to tell is by looking at the rest of the car. How has it been treated? If the previous owner cared for the paint, they probably cared for the bigger things as well. A used car should be as close to showroom condition as possible. A car never has to be damaged – regardless of its age. If it is, make an offer accordingly.

Fewer miles doesn’t necessarily mean fewer problems. Fewer miles is generally a good thing. Although city miles are much harder on a car than highway miles. This means a car with 10,000 miles that has lived its life in a big city may be in worse shape than a 20,000 mile car whose owner had a long highway commute each day. Miles are a good indicator of how many years are left in the car – but it’s also important to note how they may have been tallied, if possible.

Should you get an inspection? An inspection is always best if you’re serious about buying the car. It can save you thousands and give you great peace of mind. If you’re considering a used vehicle from a dealership, check out the Carfax report on the vehicle before you buy.

Always be ready to walk away. Do not fall in love with the car before you get to see it, because you may talk it up in your mind, instead of seeing the vehicle for what it truly is. Walk away if the car isn’t great. If it’s good but not as you expected, make a lower offer than what you were prepared to give. Price is always negotiable.

Price. Do you research beforehand, and make sure the dealership or private seller is in the ballpark. Most sellers are going to try to price the car higher and expect you to negotiate. Kelley Blue Book is a great resource for comparison.

Don’t be persuaded. Don’t let a pushy salesperson change your mind. Be sure you end up with the vehicle you want and are comfortable with. In the end, you’ll be the one who will be driving this car on a daily basis – so be sure you are 100% secure in your decision to purchase.

Some final pointers to consider:

  • Not all cosmetics matter. Minor dents/scratches on the exterior, a missing hub cap, a small upholstery stain – these can be easy negotiating points to lower the sticker price and simple (and inexpensive) enough for you to have fixed on your own later on.
  • Don’t get too caught up on mileage. A well maintained car can easily log 200,000 miles (maybe even more if it was a great, reliable car to begin with). Engines run for a very long time if they were properly maintained. You’ll need to do your research on the history of the used vehicle and weigh the following – is it better to buy a car that has been well taken care of with 150,000 miles or one that has only 75,000 miles but was poorly maintained?
  • Tires – another negotiation tool. It’s important to note how the tires are worn. If they are evenly worn, that’s a better sign. But if the treads are irregular, this could mean neglect or a mechanical issue. If the vehicle you are looking at needs new tires, this is another point you could try to negotiate off the sticker price.
  • Properly repaired accident damage isn’t always a deal breaker. This goes along with researching the vehicle’s history. Maybe the vehicle was in a small fender bender years ago and there’s a little dent in the body that doesn’t affect the safety or use of the car in any way. Or maybe the car had some body repairs made from a previous accident and it’s as good as new now. Just because the vehicle was in an accident, doesn’t always mean it’s damaged goods. Again, do your research and have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic if it will make you feel better.

In the market for a preowned vehicle? First Financial’s auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used! If you’re just starting to shop, get preapproved and if you’re ready to make the purchase – apply for an auto loan online 24/7. We have quick approval decisions and same day closings!

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

Article Source: Will Lipovsky for

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