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Used Car Buyers ChecklistAre you thinking of buying a used car? Car shopping can be a stressful experience, and if you're not careful, you could end up with a bad case of buyer's remorse. This post will provide a checklist of points to keep in mind when shopping for a used car.

Determine Your Needs

Before you even start shopping, you need to determine your needs. Ask yourself some preliminary questions, like:

  • How many miles will I be commuting?
  • Do I need space for my family?
  • How much cargo room will I need?
  • Will I be using this car for a side hustle like Uber or Grubhub?
  • How long do I plan on owning this car?

If you plan on using this car as your primary commuter vehicle, you'll want to find a car with low miles. If this car is more of a stopgap until you find something better, you might be able to save money with an older vehicle.

Define Your Budget

Next, decide how much money you intend to spend. If you buy a used car from a dealership, this may mean determining an acceptable down payment and how much money you're able to pay every month.

Decide Where to Buy

Where will you buy a used car? While some shoppers may find deals through private sales or local lots, many have come to rely on certified pre-owned vehicles available through a dealership. These cars combine the affordability of a used car with the security that comes with a manufacturer's warranty. That also means you can take advantage of dealership financing options, providing you with affordable monthly payments.

Research the VIN

Once you locate a car, it's vital to give it a thorough inspection. When you buy from a dealership, they may be able to provide you with a report on the vehicle's condition as well as its history. When in doubt, the vehicle identification number (VIN) can provide information including:

  • Registrations
  • Recalls
  • Thefts
  • Insurance claims
  • Past collisions/flood damage

Researching the VIN online can reveal this vital information, which will help you assess the car's overall value.

Inspect the Vehicle

Next, you'll want to perform a thorough inspection of the vehicle. Not sure what to look for? Consider checking some of these major components:

  • Mileage
  • Condition of exterior paint
  • Fluid/oil leaks
  • The windshield (any cracks?)
  • Interior upholstery (in good condition?)
  • Interior and exterior lights
  • Tire brands (all the same?)
  • AC/Heater
  • Audio system

Similarly, you'll want to test drive the vehicle, looking for rumbles/vibrations that might indicate alignment problems or loud engine sounds that suggest a problem with the transmission or exhaust.

Assess the Value

Once you know the vehicle's condition, use "Kelley Blue Book" (KBB) to determine the current value of the car. If you like the car and the asking price aligns with KBB values (or lower), this could make a good purchase.

Enjoy Your New-to-You Car!

By proceeding carefully, you'll be able to find a used car that matches your needs. These tips can ensure that you get the best value and get the most from your used vehicle.