Get the big bow ready: Tips for buy­ing a used car

Cecil Whig - - & -

If you’re tempted by steep discounts of­fered by car deal­er­ships at the end of the year, you’re not alone. Car sales rev up es­pe­cially dur­ing the week between Christ­mas and New Year’s, when deal­er­ships may see sales jump 78 per­cent over the first part of De­cem­ber, ac­cord­ing to Ed­munds.com, a lead­ing on­line re­source for au­to­mo­biles.

But buy­ing a used ve­hi­cle can be a daunt­ing task when you con­sider all the vari­ables: the price, ve­hi­cle his­tory, cost of gas, cost of in­sur­ance and more.

These tips can help you dur­ing the car-buy­ing process:

1. Un­der­stand what you can af­ford. Look at the over­all cost. The pur­chase price of the ve­hi­cle doesn’t tell the whole fi­nanc­ing story, Pol­lard said. Don’t for­get to fac­tor in the av­er­age cost of main­te­nance, monthly in­sur­ance, fuel costs and ad­di­tional war­ranties along with your monthly pay­ment.

2. Get pre-ap­proved be­fore step­ping foot on the dealer’s lot. Once you know what you can af­ford, be clear with the dealer on how much you can spend and stick to it, says Heather Pol­lard, vice pres­i­dent of Auto Ex­pe­ri­ence at USAA.

3. Have an ex­pert check un­der the hood and into the car’s past be­fore driv­ing off the lot. An in­de­pen­dent me­chanic can give your potential car a thor­ough exam. In ad­di­tion, a Car­fax re­port will help you un­der­stand the ve­hi­cle’s main­te­nance and ac­ci­dent his­tory.

“You want to en­sure you have a re­li­able ve­hi­cle and that six months from now it isn’t go­ing to be in the shop or stranded on the side of the road,” Pol­lard said.

4. Don’t set­tle for the ex­tended ve­hi­cle war­ranty pro­posed by the deal­er­ship. Ex­tended ve­hi­cle pro­tec­tion can be ben­e­fi­cial for a used car pur­chase, but make sure you look at other op­tions avail­able, not just what the dealer of­fers you.

“Mem­bers don’t of­ten re­al­ize USAA of­fers ex­tended ve­hi­cle pro­tec­tion,” Pol­lard said. “The dealer is go­ing to of­fer it, and it can be pretty ex­pen­sive.”

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