If you are in the market for a car but don’t have the funds for a new vehicle, buying a used car might feel intimidating. The experience doesn’t have to be a frightening one, however, if you are careful and know what to look for.

Tips for Buying a Used Car

1. Locate Cars in Your Area

There are a number of online sources that can help you narrow the choices in your price range and vehicle preference. Whether you’re looking for used sedans or pre-owned SUVs, you can find the information easily.

  • CarMax – This online car store offers a large inventory with prices clearly marked. Warranties and financing are typically provided. Because sellers don’t have to pay to list their cars, however, it increases the risk of scammers. Don’t agree to any terms until you have fully inspected the car.
  • AutoTrader – Sellers pay to list their cars on the site, which discourages would-be scammers. The sort function makes it easy to look for specific cars by make, model, price and year.

You should also check the classified ads in your local newspaper. Individuals and local car dealers frequently advertise there. If you are looking at a car from an individual, call and verify the information on the advertisement before you head out to inspect it.

2. Verify Pricing with Kelley Blue Book

After you’ve found cars in your area that meet your criteria, look up the car model in the Kelley pricing guide. This should give you the estimated market value of the car by assessing such factors as age and mileage. In your search, be sure to include the condition of the car as well.

3. Check the Accident History Report

Carfax or AutoCheck can give you an actual vehicle history report of each car you want to inspect. It will show accidents and other damage to the car. The report can also alert you to an odometer scam. Reports can sometimes include the date and type of maintenance performed.

4. Drive the Car

Once you’ve narrowed down your choice, it’s time to drive the car. Choose a route that has curves, hills and other terrains to see how it performs. Test how well the car handles corners and acceleration. Make sure the brakes respond predictably as well. Turn the radio off and listen for unusual noises.

5. Have a Mechanic Inspect Cars Sold by Individuals

If you are purchasing from a private individual, you should take the car to a trusted mechanic. Even if the car drives well and seems to be in good condition, a mechanic can spot potential problems that the average buyer won’t notice. They’ll check components under the hood and also inspect the brakes and tires for wear.

Buying a used car can seem daunting at first. Fear of dishonest sellers looking to sell a lemon is a valid concern.  If you follow some wise suggestions, however, you can find a car that will be dependable and take you where you want to go.

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