As stressful as buying a car is, new car shoppers have it easy compared to used car shoppers. One 2009 Corolla costs the same as any other, but if you're looking at 2007 Corollas, the prices vary. Also, carmakers have nationwide specials on their new cars, but used-car shoppers have to wade through local specials and deals. It's confusing, and you can forgive used car buyers for never quite being sure if they got the best deal.
While we can't guarantee you the best deal on a used car, we can help you through the used-car buying process. Keep these six tips in mind.
1. Deals Are Out There
While new-car buyers have plenty of nationwide deals available to them, used-car buyers may think they're out in the cold. Not so. While automakers tend not to publicize their used or pre-owned deals, they do have them. For example, this month Toyota is offering 3.9 percent APR financing on all certified pre-owned Corollas, while BMW is offering 0.9 percent financing on 2005 and 2006 certified pre-owned models. If you know the car you want, you may be able to get a deal directly from the manufacturer. Check the manufacturer's website before heading to the dealership to see what deals are available.
2. "Used" and "Certified Pre-Owned"
When you're used-car shopping, cut through the jargon and know what you're buying. A used car is a car that's been previously owned and is being sold by anyone: an individual, a dealership or a wholesaler. A certified pre-owned car is a car being resold by the automaker. It's usually undergone a checklist to certify it's in working order, and the automaker may provide an extension to the car's original warranty -- which is important to used car buyers because. . .
3. Warranties Matter
A risk you take when buying a used car is that someone else has owned the car, and you don't know how they cared for it. Look at a used car's warranty as closely as you look at the car itself. Know how many miles or years are left on it, and see if any aftermarket modifications the previous owner made could have voided the warranty.
4. Keep Wholesalers in Mind
If you want a lot of used-car options, as well as a car that's been inspected and comes with an extra warranty, you might want to check out a used-car wholesaler, like CarMax. These large dealerships are ideal for people who want to see many different used car makes and models at once. Most also inspect their cars and provide extra warranties, giving buyers another option that's similar to certified pre-owned.
5. Buying Independent
Many used car buyers opt to buy from an independent dealer - which is a dealer that is not associated with an automaker. They buy cars at auction and resell them. Because independent dealers aren't as constrained as dealerships associated with an automaker and often have no-frills facilities, they can sometimes offer lower prices. However, if there is a problem with a car, you may have limited support. When buying from an independent dealership, take the car to a mechanic for your own inspection.
6. Person-to-Person Sales
If independent dealers have low overhead, an individual's overhead is rock bottom. Buying from an individual selling their car means you'll likely get a low price -- but not much else. If you chose to buy from an individual, get the car inspected, and get everything in writing. Also, don't transfer any money to the seller until you have the car -- and title -- in hand.