Its that time of year and people start looking for deals on vehicles expecting to get amazing discounts. Now before you start buying into that myth that the end of they year is when dealers want to get rid of every car on their lot you have to understand that dealers want to get rid of every car on their lot every day of the year.
This is especially true for used vehicles because used cars that are bought for a trade discount on a new vehicle simply detract from the sale of new vehicles. If there is a comparable used car on your lot and you are trying to sell someone a new one for 30 to 50% more its going to be a hard sale. Dealers know this and most good customers know this too.
If you do see a used vehicle on a factory dealer lot then you have a great chance to get a decent deal on it. If the vehicle is a make other than what is sold at that dealer you have a better chance they want that car off their lot. If you can offer cash today for a vehicle then you really have the upper hand.
All of these factors and more will make or break a deal.
If you are buying a used car that the dealer has to finance then the dealer is looking for months and years of you backing out on the payments. Although the final repo will come from the bank that floats you the loan through the dealer the fact is no dealer wants to have a lot of bad loans resulting in repossessions.
This is why paying in cash is such a great deal and if the price of the vehicle is prohibitive of you paying in actual cash you can pay in a cashiers check within the amount of time it takes you to drive to and back from the bank. You can even take the test ride to your bank. You have to be flexible but you have to be careful about how you hold your cards.
How to Value a Used Vehicle you want to purchase.
When looking at a used vehicle you have to consider everything that a professional would consider when valuing the vehicle. You can not take your personal feeling about the vehicle into consideration.
I would take notes as you inspect the vehicle so you can remember them when evaluating the price.
The first thing you want to do is walk the entire vehicle and look at the condition of the paint on each and every panel independently. Start at the front drivers fender and work your way around to the hood in a counter clockwise direction. Get down and look for dents that are hard to see when standing. Place your head close to the panel and see if there are any waves. Look for rust around opening of wheel wells and at seams. Look at the vehicle from different directions and see if you find any difference in the metalics that could point to a repaint. Look for sand scratches in the paint and paint on moldings.
Take note of any missing items such as a molding, decal, emblem or feature items. A missing window molding normally means the car has been taken apart to some extent. Maybe for repainting or just because the part was damaged. A molding is not just ornamental the weather stripping keeps water out of the vehicle and if it has been gone for a period of time you might have rust damage deep into a door panel or other area that you can’t see.
Inspect the fit of door and panel gaps. They should be even and equal on both sides of the vehicle. A larger gap on a door or fender on one side of the car could mean that part has been replaced.
Check the shocks on all four corners of the vehicle by using your body weight. They should respond equally and without noises or clunks. Look for leaking fluid on the shocks or struts that can point to damaged seals which can mean a replacement and a professional alignment in your future.
Inspect the interior of the vehicle and note the condition of all items including the upholstery. Nothing should be wet or damp especially the carpet. That can point to leaks that need repair.
Make sure every door and window operates correctly. If there are any chips or cracks in the glass they will need to be replaced. This can cost you a lot of money. Expect $500 for a windshield and you can actually pay more for door glass or rear windows that are not available on a large volume from a glass company.
It might be a nice thing to bring in a engine analyzer that you can pick up for $50 to $100 to give you any recent errors but dealers will reset the computer by removing the battery cable so you can only test after a test drive.
Open the hood and look for any signs of repairs to the engine. Or any alterations from factory. If you are purchasing a vehicle that has been modified by its previous owner with air intakes and other useless performance items then you can expect they rode that car hard. It would be better to have a stock vehicle with 100,000 miles than a beat one with 50,000 miles.
Ask for a service history on the vehicle. Sometimes dealers can research that for you but they are selling the vehicle to you so take it with a grain of salt. If they say a timing belt was replaced recently you want to see proof and you want that in your records when you make the deal unless you are just going to pull out a wad of cash and say this or nothing and do that kind of deal.. actually i prefer that kind of deal.
The Road Test
First thing is you can test the radio while you are in the parking lot and not moving but once you start the road test you want the radio off and the windows open. You want to be able to hear any problems with the vehicle including the exhaust but also the suspension, tires and everything else.
On your test drive you want to make sure all of the safety equipment is working. Make sure all the seat belts are functioning and the air bags pass at least the dashboard warning light test. Make sure the air bag light blinks when the key is turned to accessory setting. If not then the light could have been removed to hide an air bag problem.
The car should be cold and you can tell that when you are looking under the hood for the engine inspection by placing your hand on the radiator hose.
The vehicle should start without problem and idle fast for about a minute then return to about 700 rpm if the car has a tachometer you can read.
If you have time you might want to get a vehicle history off the web. You can do this with your smart phone.
During the road test you want to brake the car hard and make sure the brakes work well but you also want to listen for any problems or clunks in the suspension.
When you brake hard the vehicle should stop in a straight line and the steering wheel should not pull in either direction.
The same is true for a hard acceleration test the car should launch evenly and not pull to either side.
We have covered some of the things that you need to do to look for the best deal on a used vehicle. The most important thing when buying a vehicle is to take it seriously. A mistake can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars or could leave you with a vehicle that is not able to be inspected for use or just dangerous to drive. Act appropriately and you are not there to make friends.. you are there to give them a lot of your hard earned money so make them prove its worth every dollar.
The least expensive used car I ever bought was $35 and the most expensive.. well it was brand new so I am not going to tell you but it was more than i should have paid.
The car that you buy should be worth more than you pay. This is the most basic rule of buying anything.
If you are buying a car or a home or anything.. then you want to pay less than you could instantly turn around and sell it for.
If you pay exactly what you could sell it for in a week then you are no better off but you will be out hundreds of dollars and hours in paperwork.
If you pay more than you could sell it for in a week then you have made a really bad decision.
Keep that last part in mind when you go to the dealer because they want to sell you something they paid 50% street value for at the full street price. But they also know that a good customer understands that and a Good Customer will walk away and buy something maybe not exactly what they have but good enough to get them to work while they look for a better deal.