If you need a car and you're on a budget, buying used may be your best - or only - option. A used vehicle can be a great way to save money, but a costly mistake if you're not careful. Here are tips to save money on a used car, without getting burned:
Inspect the car! A no brainer. Look for red flags that will steer you away, without having to take it to a mechanic. Look for fluid leaks underneath the car. Oil or transmission fluids on the ground are definite warning signs. Odd wear on the tires can be a sign of body/frame problems and new or different paint may be a warning sign that the car's been in a crash. If the paint is fading in most areas of the car but bright in one area, it may be an indication that the area has been repainted. Look for cracks on belts and excessive residue under the oil fill cap under the hood. Listen to the exhaust on your test drive, and test things such as the heater fan and power windows. Find a level stretch of road and see if the car continues in a straight track if you briefly take your hands off the wheel, and test whether it pulls to either side or vibrates when you step on the brake.
Research Unlike a new car, a used vehicle has a history that may include accidents, poor maintenance, and other issues that could cause a major problem down the road. You can save yourself a lot of headaches by carefully researching the car's history. Start with a report by CarFax or another vehicle history provider, which will tell you if the car's been in an accident or if it's been rebuilt. It also lists all of the car's previous owners, along with its service and registration history. Next, take the vehicle to an independent mechanic to conduct an inspection. This can help you find major problems that will require expensive repairs. If the owner refuses to allow this inspection, consider it a red flag and move on.
Negotiate Whether you're buying from a private seller or a dealership, negotiate the best deal you can. A private seller may be willing to take a little off the asking price if you offer a cash sale. At a dealership, negotiate everything: The sale price, your trade-in value and financing offers. Dealers are used to haggling on used cars and you won't save money if you don't make your counter-offer.
With careful research and not being afraid to haggle, you can score a great deal on a used vehicle that will have you back on the road with some money still in your pocket.
About the Author: Freelance blogger Angie Mansfield covers a variety of subjects for consumers and small business owners. From business growth and marketing to finding a great used car and budgeting help, her work will give you tips to keep your finances in order.