used car buying guide

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Choosing a Used Car

choosing a used carThe choice of a used car is a bit more complicated than that of a new car. Not only do you have to pick a make and model, and a place to buy it, you have to contend with decisions such as mileage, condition, and age...none of which are a factor in new cars but are important considerations when buying a used car. Plus, some additional factors such as financing and warranties (which have more variables on used vehicles) carry more weight when you consider a used car.

It is important to narrow your field as soon as possible, so that you don't spend endless hours looking at used cars that 1) Don't fit your budget or 2) Don't fit your needs.

Determining a Budget

A great deal on a car that you can't afford or causes you to forgo necessities is not a great deal. Don't get caught in what car salespeople refer to as "the ether." This is when you become so enthralled by the vehicle that you are anesthetized to what is going on around you--including the monthly payment that the salesperson is presenting that is beyond your capability! Some of the most important advice used car buyers can get is to set a maximum budget payment and then stick to it! You can access some valuable financing calculators here, courtesy of LendingTree.com. Then, when you are ready to get competitive loan quotes, you can do that here or from our financing pages.

Determining Your Needs and Wants

With the wide range of used vehicles that are available in any given market, it is crucially important that you don't waste your time investigating cars or trucks that are not a "good fit." The first step in this process is to distinguish between those vehicle attributes that are needs (the items that you absolutely must have) and those that are wants (items that would be, if they are affordable, nice to have). Many buyers make the mistake of confusing something that they want (for example, a sunroof) with something they need. In the process, they overpay for a vehicle, often going beyond their budget, or they buy a vehicle that is unacceptable for their needs. Take a moment to write down those items that are necessities and which will be your minimum requirements. Follow that with items that would be nice to have--if they fit within the budget you have established (and, of course, if they are on a vehicle that contains the items on the needs list).

Examples of Needs

Examples of Wants

4 Doors+ Blue car with tan interior (or any specific color)
Station wagon or Minivan Sport wheels
Automatic Transmission 6 disc CD Player
Air Conditioning Upgraded interior
Luggage rack Sunroofs/moonroofs (unless you are really tall!)
Child safety seats Spoilers/ground effects
Towing package (if you are planning to tow a boat, trailer, etc.) Engine with more horsepower than you need.
Rear defroster/heated mirrors Electronic gauge package

If you carve your budget and your requirements in stone, never letting any salesperson sway you from them, you will have a much better chance of getting the kind of used car that you will be satisfied with.

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