7 Tips for Buying a Used Car from a Dealership

If you’re in the market for a used car, you might decide to focus on buying from a dealership instead of coping with the uncertainty of independent buyers. After all, dealerships need to abide by state and federal regulations and there’s some comfort in knowing that when you shop.

However, there are still some things that can trip you up. We like our members to be in the best position possible when they shop for a car. With that in mind, here are seven tips for buying a used car from a dealership.

#1: Set a Budget Before You Start

If there’s one thing you can be sure of when you walk into a dealership, it’s that they want you to spend as much money as possible. The salesperson’s commission is based on what they sell, and they’ll probably do their best to convince you to buy more car than you can afford.

For that reason, you should go in with a clear idea of how much you can afford to spend. You can do that by getting pre-approved for a loan or, at the very least, using a loan calculator to decide how much you can spend. That way, you’ll have hard numbers and won’t be tempted to blow through your budget.

#2: Research Dealerships Ahead of Time

Regardless of where you live, you probably have a variety of dealerships in your area. It’s inevitable that some dealerships will have better reputations than others. Here are some of the things you should research before you go shopping:

  • Does the dealership have a franchise deal to sell Certified, Pre-Owned cars?
  • Does the dealership have good reviews on sites like Yelp and Google?
  • Are there any complaints about the dealership with the Better Business Bureau?
  • What of cars do they have in stock?
  • Are they an indirect dealer of a local credit union, like Addition Financial? (Check here).

You should be able to get answers to these questions online. Never visit a dealership with a sketchy reputation or bad reviews. You’re far more likely to be pressured or scammed there than you would be at a solid dealership with a good reputation.

#3: Research Cars Ahead of Time

Say you’ve chosen a dealership. You might want to rush right over and start shopping, but do yourself a favor and research some cars, first. You might start by deciding what features you want in your next car or which makes and models you like. From there, check out the Kelley Blue Book value of the cars you’re interested in. You should also check out consumer complaints and recalls.

It’s also a good idea to view cars on the dealership’s website. Many dealerships provide detailed information, including the vehicle’s VIN number and history. You can view pictures of the interior and exterior and get a good idea of what you’ll be getting before you head to the lot.

Everything You Need to Know About Buying Used Cars

#4: Run a CarFax Report

If you spot a car you like, and you have the VIN number, you should run a CarFax report before you go to see it. That way, you’ll know the car’s history and you’ll be able to spot red flags before you see the car and fall in love with it.

You’ll spend a little money to get the report, but it will give you some peace of mind about the car’s condition. It may also help you narrow down your choices, so you can pick a car that will give you the performance and reliability you want.

#5: Test Drive the Car

Never buy a used car without test driving it first. The test drive will give you a chance to see how the car handles and also, so test out everything from the brakes to the radio.

Don’t be afraid to take your time during the test drive. A salesperson who pressures you or tries to convince you not to take it on the highway may be trying to distract you or prevent you from spotting potential issues.

#6: Have Your Mechanic Check the Car

It’s always a good idea to have your mechanic check the car. Even if the dealership has full maintenance records, it’s helpful to have someone you trust give it a once-over before you sign the paperwork.

Any dealer who gives you a hard time about having your mechanic check a car you’re considering buying is hiding something. In fact, a “No” to this question should be an automatic deal-breaker.

#7: Negotiate a Price

For most buyers, the final step is negotiating a price. If you’ve got a pre-approval in place, you know what you can afford to spend. You should still plan on haggling a bit to get the best possible price.

A good rule of thumb is to go in with a low but reasonable offer based on your research. The salesperson will probably come in significantly higher, but don’t meet them halfway. Instead, make incremental increases and be prepared to walk away.

The main thing to remember when you’re buying a used car from a dealership is that you’re the one in charge. Salespeople may try to make you feel that they’re running the show. Having information about the dealership, model and vehicle – as well as your own budget and credit – will keep you in the driver’s seat.

To learn about Addition Financial’s flexible auto loan options, please click here.

The content provided here is not legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. Please consult with legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific needs or questions you may have. We do not make any guarantees as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not support any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability or legal obligations for your use of this information.


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