Tips for Buying Used Cars in Dealerships

tips for buying used cars in dealershipsBuying a used car from a dealer can be quite an experience. It can be good or bad, depending on what the customer makes it. To help you make it a good experience for you, we’ve assembled some great tips for buying used cars in dealerships.

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Our first tip comes by way of inventory. Due to the economic slump we’ve been in for the last few years, more people are choosing to buy used as long as they can find a quality vehicle. The increased demand for used vehicles means inventory is not as high as it once was; retail prices are also higher. You may have to look around for while to find the car you’re after at a price with which you’re comfortable.

Tip #1 – Determine Your Standards ahead of Time

It’s no secret that selling cars is about getting the customer to purchase as much car as possible while, at the same time, protecting the dealership from having to give too much. Sales associates are trained extensively in the various tactics and techniques used to make a sale. They are most successful when customers are not fully prepared before pulling into the lot.

Perhaps the best thing you can do as a used car buyer is to determine your standards before you ever leave home.

According to Kelley Blue Book, that starts with determining how much you can afford. You can base this number on one of two things: the total amount you’re willing to pay when all is said and done, or the amount of a monthly payment as it relates to your for buying used cars from dealerships

Experts recommend you determine how much you can afford using the first method. In so doing, you can later negotiate financing in order to get a monthly payment that fits in your budget, without paying too much for the car.

By contrast, when you work based off a monthly payment amount, the dealership is able to game the system in a way that enables them to charge you as much as they can while staying within a few dollars of your desired payment.

buying used cars in dealershipsTo determine your standards you need to decide how much you’re willing to pay, the type of vehicle for which you’re looking (i.e., sedan, minivan, sub-compact, etc.), the maximum amount of mileage you’re willing to accept, and what extra features you’re looking for.

Once you determine those things, don’t budge. The minute you’re willing to budge, you open the door to being sold a car you don’t really want.

Tip #2 – Never Buy Right Away

The other important thing to know about used car sales is the fact that dealerships want you to make a purchase decision before you leave their lot for the first time. They know that if they allow you to drive away and think about it, you are less likely to return and make a purchase. While this is bad for them, it’s good for you.

Even if you see the perfect car at the perfect price, don’t purchase it on your first visit.

At least take a few hours and scour a couple of other dealerships nearby to find what they have. It’s possible you could find an even better car at a better price by looking around. Comparison shopping also allows you to look at vehicles a bit more objectively so that you can make a better decision.

some tips for buying used cars in dealershipsWhen you do settle on a car, go back to the lot and play up your shopping experience to your own benefit. Rather than allowing a salesperson to control the conversation by telling you how many other people were interested in the car you’re after, you can take control by telling him about all the other great cars you’re considering purchasing.

Tip #3 – Ask to See the Buyer’s Guidetips for buying used vehicles in dealerships

The Federal Trade Commission requires that every used car dealer create a detailed buyer’s guide for each individual car they sell. A buyer’s guide must include certain things such as whether or not a vehicle is sold with a warranty or if there are any potential mechanical problems for which you need to look out, and information about having a car inspected by your own mechanic before making a deal.

When you do make a purchase, the dealer is required to give you a copy of that buyer’s guide for your own reference.

Tip #4 – Ask about Lemon Laws

Just about every state has lemon laws in place protecting consumers against dealers that sell defective cars without informing customers. Some states, like West Virginia, require used car dealers to inform customers of their rights under the state’s lemon law. You should always ask for that information even if dealers in your state are not required to furnish it.

If your state does require a used car dealer to provide lemon law information, and the dealer refuses to do so, report that dealer to your state attorney general.

In states like West Virginia, failing to provide lemon law information is a serious offense. By reporting such dealers, consumers are helping to keep them honest.

Tip #5 – Get a Second Opinion

You have the legal right to have any used car you’re considering purchasing from a dealer inspected by your own mechanic. Ask the dealership to provide dealer plates so you can drive the vehicle to your mechanic’s shop right away.

what to do when buying used cars in dealershipsIf the dealership balks at this request, you can walk away or try and make arrangements for your mechanic to accompany you back to the dealership at a later date. In either case, if the dealership is not amenable to you getting a second opinion, don’t purchase the car.

Along those same lines, don’t be afraid to ask to take the car for a test drive. There’s no need for you to spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle only to find out later it’s not worth the money you paid.

A test drive can go a long way in helping you determine whether or not you’re getting a good car at a fair price.

Tip #6 – Beware of Title Washing

Title washing is a practice employed by some used car dealers to dispose of vehicles that can’t be sold on the lot because of mechanical or accident issues. The website explains title washing as a process by which a dealership will have one of its salespersons attempt to sell a vehicle through a classified listing to make it look like the owner is a private for purchasing used cars in dealerships

One of the ways to spot title washing is to compare the name on the title with the name of the person allegedly selling the vehicle. If they don’t match, it could be a case of title washing.

Before you agree to purchase any used car, always ask to see the title first. If you have any suspicions that something shady might be going on simply turn around and walk away.

Tip #7 – Check for Recalls and Safety Issues

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains a database of safety issues and recalls in the United States. Consumers have free access to this information through the NHTSA website. You can find out if there are any known issues with the make and model you’re considering purchasing by entering that car’s VIN (vehicle identification number) into the online database.research before you buy used cars in dealerships

When shopping for a used car, get the VIN number off the title and run it on the NHTSA website. If a dealer has nothing to hide, he might even be willing to allow you to use one of the computers he has on site. If there are safety or recall issues for a particular vehicle, the dealership ought to be able to tell you whether or not they’ve been addressed.

Tip #8 – Be Clear on Warranty Questions

Our final tip has to do with used car warranties. In most states, used car dealerships are required to provide at least a basic, 30-day limited warranty to cover most major defects. By law, a dealer must disclose warranty information at the time of sale. However, most of the time that disclosure is nothing more than the salesman handing you a piece of paper and asking you to read it.

Don’t turn down the opportunity to do so.

Read the warranty information thoroughly and ask as many questions as you need to make sure you understand it.

Once you agree to a sale and sign the papers, you are stuck with the warranty you’ve been offered whether you like it or not.

should i buy used cars in dealershipsAlong those same lines, also be aware that most states do not require a three-day “cooling off” period for used car sales. In other words, you won’t be able to purchase a used car and then simply return it within three days for a full refund. If you want a cooling off period you’ll have to ask for it in writing at the time of the sale.

Buying a used car certainly has its benefits over purchasing new. Yet, despite all of the tips we’ve offered, there’s no guarantee that a used car will provide the years of reliable service you want. There’s always a gamble involved, so be careful.

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