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Buy a Used Car
What to Look for in a Used Car
Buying a used car used to be a hit and miss situation, but you at least had to go to great lengths to find a good one. You still have to do sufficient research but tools available on the net give you never before seen freedom
As a first step you need to assess yourself, not the cars themselves. You need to know what your habits are, how you drive, what you drive for, how much you will use the car, where, etc. If you live in Nevada, out in the desert, you'll need a different car than people who live in downtown Manhattan. So create a checklist perhaps and classify your needs into three categories, what you definitely need, what you would love to have and some options that would be nice, but not essential.
Information is key in choosing the right car for yourself. First of all browse the web, try Autotrader.com or Cars.com and see what you can find. Find the cars you like visually, don't really worry about technical stuff yet, just go for looks. After you've collected some models you like it's time to go into the information mode. I find that the easiest way is to get the stats of the car from either the mentioned sites or the car's official dealership site. You can compare them, see what they have and so on. You can even visit forums and see what people have to say about the vehicles although only rely on forums if they are very uneven. If you see fifty bad and forty good opinions it's really of no use overall.
Now you should look for actual cars being sold somewhere. The bigger site you browse the better chance you have and the lowest risk so I would advise that, but local papers, used car mags may also be a good source of info. After you've found some options be sure to check if they have everything they should as people may have modified their cars, perhaps built in an LCD video making the price a lot more. So the actual viewing of the car can't (shouldn't) really be avoided but time spent on finding suitable ones will likely be less with the internet.
I would say that the best choice is buying from a used car dealership that is well known and respected. The major advantage here is that they will most probably not try to sell you something really bad, or they will just say so. They check the cars for errors and I have seen a lot of dealers actually state this and give a better price because of it.
I would really recommend that you don't put price first in the sense that if you see a model you like, don't go for the cheapest. The ideal situation is when you get a good deal but make a good compromise between quality and price. You may get a car for $1500 less but you could find that it falls apart under you after two months and you then spend $3000 on fixing it. Getting a car that is in good condition could save you much more money in the future than the little extra you spend now, so be prepared to fork out a little more cash maybe. An ideal price for a 3-4 years old car that is in good condition is in between $8000 - $12000.
When buying anything with a big price tag you should always be very into the aspects of its financing. If you're able to pay in full that's the best, but of course using some sort of financing offer is fine too, if you know what you are doing. Don't fall for schemes boasting easy financing with bad credit reports and small downpayment, sorry folks, this doesn't happen. APR will be huge, or some other factor will come into play. Look around, compare deals but always, always know how much you are financing, when you have to pay, how much, to whom, until when and so on.