Seek out the details
Before your first car shopping trip, there is work to do. First, figure out which car models you believe best meet your needs. Then research each car model to look for the important features, the most likely things to go wrong and what it would cost to repair. Doing this for several car models will allow you to compare and get a feeling for the differences among models. This information gives you the background you’ll need to ask the right questions.
Check the pricing
Kelley Blue Book’s pricing tool can help you determine what you should pay for your used car. Comparing the pricing for the models that you have targeted will show how the elements that go into the pricing such as mileage, general condition and added features will impact the vehicle’s value.
Shop and ask questions
When you call or visit a dealership or an individual seller to check out a car, be sure to find out as much about it as you can. Sellers are expecting to answer buyers’ questions. Some things you’ll want to learn about the vehicle are:
- The mileage on the odometer
- Any accident history
- Any water or electrical damage
- The overall condition of the car
- Reason the car is being sold
- Whether there have been previous owners
Examine the car
Before ever driving the car, carefully check it for any for rust, evidence of flood damage or previous auto body repair. Arrange to take the car to a mechanic for a more detailed diagnosis. If the seller objects, consider this a red flag and decide if you wish to continue.
Test drive the vehicle
If you still feel comfortable with the car after a thorough examination, then you’ll want to drive it. Testing the car is best done on a road where you can drive at various speeds from slow to above 60 mph. Also driving in a parking lot can help test the car’s handling. Be thorough, take your time and listen for any odd sounds. This is your chance to test all systems, including:
- Steering-wheel alignment
- Air conditioning/heating
- Windshield wipers
- Headlights, directional lights, taillights
- Power windows
Get a history report
If the car passes the test drive, then jot down the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). That’s the 17-digit code that you will find on the driver’s side dashboard where it joins the windshield. You’ll want to use this ViN to obtain the detailed vehicle history report online at CARFAX or Autocheck. This report will show past sales, any recorded accident damage reports and more. www.autocheck.com
Negotiate the price
Given the information you have collected, your physical inspection and test drive, you are now in a position to negotiate the price of the car. When you make an offer, bear in mind that the dealer or seller will usually counter-offer at a higher price; so be sure that your original offer is not the highest price you can afford. Always be prepared to walk away if the asking price exceeds what you’re comfortable paying.
Trust your gut
You must be realistic when purchasing a used car. Don’t skip any of the buying steps above. Rely on the information you collect. Resist high-pressure sales techniques by dealers. Don’t allow yourself to buy on impulse just because you love the way the car looks even though the facts don’t add up. Remember, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.
Auto Insurance Tip
If you are thinking about buying a car, truck or SUV, have a conversation with your insurance agent who can help you examine your auto insurance options for the models that you are considering. This way, you can factor in the cost of insurance as you move toward your final decision. Then, once you have decided on the car you’ll be buying, be sure to notify your agent so that your policy can be updated, giving you the proper coverage for your “new” vehicle.
The Latimer Insurance Agency is a full-service insurance agency in Bethesda, Maryland (Montgomery County) offering business/commercial insurance, auto insurance for your vehicle, home insurance for homeowners, renters and condo dwellers, and life insurance to all of Maryland (MD), Virginia (VA) Pennsylvania (PA), Delaware (DE), New York (NY), West Virginia (WV), North Carolina (NC) and Washington DC since 1919. Our experienced insurance agents at our office Bethesda, Maryland (Montgomery County) welcome your inquiries and are glad to discuss your coverage needs at any time. The scope of your insurance coverage and options depend entirely upon the policy and the insurance company providing it. This website is not intended to advise, offer or bind coverage. You should always discuss your insurance issues with professionals such as a licensed and qualified insurance agent before making any decisions or choosing a course of action.