According to a 2015 report from Edmunds.com, the price for a used vehicle averages $16,800. This is a considerable amount of money, and generally speaking, living on an educator’s salary does not leave us with mounds of disposable income. Therefore, it is important to save money where we can, and when it comes to car buying, many tend to overpay for a vehicle simply because they are unaware of the various ways to save. Whether one is a seasoned car buyer or a timid first timer, the following tips are helpful for getting a budget friendly, quality vehicle.
Thorough research is imperative when determining the best vehicle to buy. The average price, customer reviews, cost to own, and depreciation rates all need to be heavily researched in order to evaluate vehicle quality and value.
When it comes to pricing, websites such as Edmunds, Auto Trader, Ebay, Kelley Blue Book, and NADA can all be utilized to determine a solid average price for the vehicle. One can also compare vehicles from a dealership’s online inventory to a similar vehicle for sale from an individual to determine which to purchase from.
Customer reviews prove valuable in choosing a make and model. One can learn specific issues with certain model years and see if the problem was corrected in subsequent models. If a vehicle earns mostly negative reviews, knowing this can prevent an individual from buying a “lemon”.
Cost to own and depreciation rates will vary greatly from vehicle to vehicle. For imported vehicles, research part replacement and maintenance; specific parts may have to be ordered from the country of origin, which will add greatly to any repair bill.
One last item to mention, whether one decides to buy from a dealer or an individual, is to always ask for a history and maintenance report on the vehicle. A well-kept, wreck free vehicle will generally be the best value.
Buying from a Dealership
If buying from a dealership, be sure to research them. Many times, a quick internet search will provide satisfactory results. Also, if the dealership sells on Ebay, check their feedback rating.
When it comes to negotiating, be sure to review all of the applicable fees. Generally “doc fees” and “processing fees” are sheer profit. If the sales representative indicates that the fee cannot be waved, ask for a decrease in the vehicle price.
If financing the vehicle, be sure to compare the bank’s rate and the dealer’s rate. Sometimes dealerships upcharge for financing because it gives them more profit. Do not forget to check with a local credit union, or even better, a teacher’s credit union; their rates tend to be cheaper.
If trading in a current vehicle, it is best not to disclose this information to the dealer until a “rock solid” price for the vehicle is given. Dealerships tend to increase the price of the vehicle if they know the customer is trading. As a reminder, when trading in, sales tax will only be charged on the difference between the purchased vehicle and the trade in.
Finally, always be willing to walk away if the price is outside the budget. Sometimes the dealership will call back and accept the price simply to move the inventory, and this is especially true at the end of the month.
Buying from an Individual
Many dealerships have certain criteria for the cars they sell, and generally one will pay more for the same vehicle for that reason. If buying from an individual, the buyer will be responsible for finding out all the vehicle information. The following questions prove crucial in determining the condition of the vehicle:
Does the seller have current maintenance records? If the vehicle has been serviced regularly, the seller should have service records. If nothing else, check to see that the mileage of the vehicle is less than or close to the mileage printed on the “next oil change” sticker.
How many previous owners? How long have they owned it? Why are they selling it? All of these questions help one determine if the car has been maintained properly.
Does the vehicle have a clean and clear title? A clean title means the vehicle has never been salvaged or wrecked. A clear title means no liens exist on the vehicle.
When inspecting the body, look at the ground beneath the vehicle to check for leaking fluid. Also, open all doors, the hood, and the trunk, and look for a sticker that has the VIN number. If any sticker is missing, it has most likely been wrecked. If the seller does not have current vehicle information and appears uneasy at the thorough inspection of the vehicle, it may be best to walk away. As a safety tip, always meet an individual seller in a public place.
The Bottom Line
Being informed in these areas will aide in the buying process and provide more confidence whether buying from a dealership or an individual. As a final tip, it never hurts to ask for an educator discount; you never know what they might say! Even if the “car of your dreams” doesn’t work out, another one will come along. Be patient. In the end, it will be worth the time to buy a quality vehicle for the best possible price.
The author would like to thank Tommy and Robert Bookout for their assistance with the information in this article.