How to Buy a Good Used Car

For your first car, it is better to buy a used car than a new one. There are many advantages in buying a used car. Read our Guide to Buying Your First Car for our argument on that.

New cars are often much more expensive than second-hand cars. As a new driver, you won’t feel as bad if you earn a few dings, bumps, and scrapes on a used car, instead of in a new car. The challenge, though, is that choosing and buying a used car can be tricky and difficult. Here are some steps you can follow if you want to buy a good used car.

Set your Budget

The first thing you must do when you want to buy a car is to set your budget. How much you are willing to spend on the car. Do you have some savings that you can use for buying a used car? Will you seek financing? Will your parents or your company help you pay for your car?

By setting your budget, you are also defining the kinds of car that you will have access to. You may like a used sports car, but if you don’t have the budget for it, then you simply won’t be able to buy one. Based on your budget, you will be able to check the different types of car makes and models available to you.

If you have limited budget, fear not. There are still a lot of options in the market for you.

Define your needs

After setting your budget, the next thing to do is to define your needs. Will you be using the car for commuting to school or to work? Do you want to save money on gas and maintenance? Or do you want something that has good towing capability?

You have a lot of options when it comes to accessories and detailing your car. But you need to establish your basic needs first before you choose any of those extras. If you are buying a used car, the simple truth is that you will not have a lot of choices with the accessories. Heck, you may not even have a lot of choices when it comes to the color of your car. You need to be aware of that before making a commitment to buy.

Look for a used car within your budget and needs

After setting your budget and defining your needs, you are ready to look for good used cars. Some people will say that it is better for you to buy cars that are around 3-5 years old. Depreciation costs have already peaked and these cars are still in good condition that you won’t need frequent trips to a mechanic. Most dealerships accept trade in when they sell new cars. They will make some money when they sell these used cars to the public. Most dealerships also take care of these cars because they want to protect their reputation.

If you are looking for economical cars, Toyota and Honda are good, solid choices. On the other hand, if you are considering luxury cars, you might want to go for Mercedes, BMW, and other similar car makers with a a reputation for making expensive cars. But if you are looking for a luxury brand car, be prepared to pay for more expensive maintenance costs. The same thing is true for big, gas guzzling SUVs.

Look for used cars at reputable online marketplaces for used cars such as,, and also lists used cars in their website. Alternatively, you can also check the local dealerships in your area. Craigslist is another place for you to check for privately listed cars for sale.

Narrow down your choices

Come up with 5-10 choices for used cars from your research. Rank these cars according to your order of preference. I know that preference may come in many forms and will be influenced by your personal taste and driving style. Narrow down your choice to 3 cars. Then contact the dealerships or sellers to schedule a test drive. When you do a test drive, you will need to look at all aspects of the car and how it drives. The Shift Blog has published a good checklist as you test drive a car:

Since you are buying a used car, don’t ever buy a used car without having a mechanic inspect it. Yes it can be expensive. But your expense now will save you many headaches later.

Also, it would be better if you were pre-approved for a loan before you head out to the dealership. In the case you really want one of the cars in your shortlist, you will not be pressured to file for a loan in that dealership’s finance department. They are usually more expensive than your bank or credit union.

Buy the Car! (Or Not)

If one of the cars you tested fits your budget and satisfies your needs and preferences, then go for it. Used cars tend to sold fast, especially the good ones. Once you know that you want a car, decide and pull the trigger within a few days. But if you really tried to like one of the cars in your list, but it just doesn’t cut it, don’t buy it just because you badly need a car. Most of the time, it is better to wait for a few days or weeks to make sure that you have what you need and want, instead of settling for a bad car.

Once you have the new used car, you will be able to enjoy mobility and all the good things that it brings. But always remember that a car needs maintenance and if you want your car to last forever, you better make sure to follow the regular maintenance schedule.

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