You may be in the market for a used car and do not know how to proceed. It really depends on whether you are buying the used car from a used car dealer or from a private seller. You need to treat these two situations slightly differently.
Used Car Dealer
Try to confine your choice to certified cars. To get a certification, you have to get an inspection by a mechanic and show whether the car has undergone any repairs to fix existing problems. You can also ask for inspection by your own mechanic.
The used car may have been traded in by somebody else, and you can ask to see the maintenance record. Some dealers, however, will not let you see the name of the previous owner.
Ask for a test drive, or even whether you can keep it overnight. You can agree with the dealer about the number of miles that you will put on the odometer during your test drive. You would have to return the car with a full tank, if that was the condition before you took the car for a test drive.
It is best if the dealer has a policy which will allow you to return the car if you are not satisfied with it. Most dealers will not return your cash, but will allow you to pick up another car of similar or greater value. Remember that a cash deal can lower the price of a car by as much as 5 percent.
Negotiate for new equipment like new tires and other worn-out parts like belts. See that the dealer services the car before you take it away. And if you are trading in your car, let the dealer do the selling for you. This may sometimes help you to get a lower price on the used car.
The first thing that you need to know when you are buying from a private seller is the number of miles that are on the odometer. Get this information over the phone or by e-mail before you even see the car. This could help you to get a rough idea of the value of the car. There are Internet sites that could help you with this.
Find out from the seller why he is selling the car. This could show some problems with the car if the seller mentions that he is opting for another car that is more fuel efficient. Sometimes you will find the seller is selling the car for someone else from his family. In such cases you may not be able to get any price reduction during the negotiations.
Ask the seller of the condition of his car before you go to see it. If he describes it as ‘fair’, he will be open to negotiation. A ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ rating could lead to tougher bargaining.
Find out from the seller whether he has been the only owner of the car or bought it as a used car. Check out all the maintenance records. This will let you know whether the car has been bought in the same state or from another. This will let you assess whether the car has gone through specific weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold.
Get information of the type of oil that the car uses. If the answer is immediate, the car has been topped up recently and is therefore better maintained.
Ask to take a test drive before you open negotiations for the purchase. You may have to limit this to just 30 minutes or so, but is a must to give you a proper indication of the way the car behaves. This is when you can also request that you get your own mechanic to inspect the car.
Now is the time to negotiate the price that you are hoping for. You would have already got an indication of the car’s value from the odometer figures, coupled with the model and year of manufacture. If the price quoted is near this figure you can begin serious negotiations. If the price quoted is too high, just walk away. There are plenty of used cars for sale and you can look for another.
There are some people who make it a business to buy used cars, refurbish them, and then sell them again for profit. If the private seller that you are talking with is one such person, you need to be wary. You would be better off going to a used car dealer, who runs his business more professionally.