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What You Need to Know When Buying a Used Car

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When you're car shopping, you might want to consider choosing a car that's not new; however that's still new to you. Purchasing a used car allows you to avoid the potentially significant depreciation that can come along with buying a new car. In fact, according to Auto Trader, brand new cars lose an average of 20 to 30 percent of value the minute you drive off the dealer's lot… and some new cars may depreciate up to 50 percent over the first three years.

Just like any other major purchase, buying a car calls for some research. Spending a bit of time doing homework will help you make the right decision when it comes to finding the right used vehicle for your needs. Here's what you need to know about buying a used car.

Do Some Homework

First, check with your state's Consumer Protection Office to determine your rights as a used car buyer. Next, look into the paperwork you'll need to file with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles once you purchase a car. Research the average maintenance, gas and repair costs for the models you're interested in, as well. Finally, once you've narrowed down the makes and models of cars you're most interested in, determine a reasonable price. Free, online sources such as Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, Consumer Reports and the National Auto Dealers Association will help you determine a market-based price range for your car of choice and give you a baseline number from which to negotiate. Arming yourself with this information ahead of time will prepare you to walk into a dealership — or interact with a private buyer — well-prepared so you can avoid any surprises.

Background Research

Once you've found a car (or two) that you're interested in, take a deep dive into that car's background by:

  • Reviewing the car's service history. Ask the dealer or current owner for maintenance and service records.
  • Pulling a vehicle history report to see if the car has been involved in a crash, flood, odometer rollback scheme, or has been marked as a "lemon."
  • Checking for any recalls or safety information on the specific model.

Behind the Wheel

Take your potential ride for a test drive in the type of driving conditions you'd normally be in. For instance, if you commute through heavy traffic, test drive the car in a similar situation. If you put in a lot of miles on the highway, be sure to take the car out and get it up to the speed you normally travel at. If the potential car passes these tests, take it to a trusted mechanic for a thorough pre-sale inspection. Your mechanic will tell you if the car needs any repairs or has any issues; if repairs are necessary, you may want to ask the seller to lower the price or get the repairs done before you purchase the car.

Insurance Coverage

Now that you've found a car, it's time to ensure that you have the right insurance coverage. The easiest way to explore your options is simply to give your insurance agent a call. They'll walk you through available coverage plans and options, ensure that you meet state regulations and requirements, and help you get the coverage you need to protect yourself, your family and your new (used) car.

Buying a used car offers a number of benefits. Following these simple tips will help you find the right car for your needs.

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