Do your research - it may save you some serious money
First, check the prices of similar vehicle models using the NADA Official Used Car Guide or Kelley Blue Book, both of which can be found online or at your local library. In addition to thinking about the price tag of the car, think about your car insurance rates too; are you adding this car to an existing insurance policy? (If so, you could qualify for a Multi-Car Discount.)* It’s worth it to take a few minutes to get a quote for car insurance for your new vehicle if it helps you better understand how a new car will impact your budget.
Then, research the car’s history. Ask the seller or dealer whether the car has been damaged in a flood or involved in a crash. Using the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), you can get help from your state’s motor vehicle department to research the car’s title history. According to USA.gov, a title history report that shows that the title has recently changed hands or has changed hands many times could be a red flag for a potential buyer. This could mean the seller is trying to conceal the history of the car.
If you choose to purchase a vehicle with a salvaged title, know that many insurance companies may only offer limited coverage for that vehicle, or may choose not to insure it altogether.
These helpful database services gather information from state and local authorities, salvage yards, and insurance companies, and can help you avoid buying a lousy pre-owned car. In the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) you can find information about a car’s title, odometer data, and some damage history. NMVTIS requires you to pay a small fee to access a car’s report, but the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) maintains a free database that includes flood damage and other helpful information.
Understand your payment options
Will you be paying in full or will you make payments over a period of time? Don’t wait to think about financing until you’re in the hot seat at the dealership, because dealership financing may not be the best deal. When the salesperson focuses on your monthly payment, it gives them wiggle room to play with other variables of your loan (like loan interest amount and loan length), writes Consumer Reports. Dealers usually receive a set fee or commission on the car loans they coordinate, so they could be interested in more than just selling you a pre-owned car. You can research financing through your personal bank, but also through online lenders.
When you’ve researched the market value of the used car you’d like to buy, factored the car insurance rate into your budget, and explored all of your financing options, you’re well on your way to being an informed buyer!
*Discounts may only apply to certain coverages and are subject to terms and conditions and may not be available in all states or distribution channels.