5 keys to getting a good used car deal

Smart Used Car Shopping

courtesy of Hertz Car Sales

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Everyone has a horror story about shopping for used cars. The car was a lemon, the salesman convinced them to spend far too much money, or the warranty had so many exclusions it was useless. Unfortunately, this causes some people to shy away from used cars and buy new, reasoning that the extra cost is "worth it" to avoid these hassles.

As many money-savvy consumers know, though, a new car will depreciate significantly as soon as you buy it. It loses so much value that one friend of mine described it as "throwing money in the ditch as you drive off the lot." In addition, it's as easy to get overcharged for a new car as a used one. It's easier, actually, if you count all the features the salesman will try to upsell you.

In the end, avoiding debt as much as possible is our goal here on Stretcher. New cars cost more and can rarely be bought with cash up front. So let's look at how to be smart about our used car shopping, so that our story will be a dream and not a nightmare.

Know what you're looking for. The internet gives us an amazing wealth of information about vehicles, including average prices, features, safety ratings, and reviews. Walk onto a lot knowing exactly the year, make, and model you want. In fact, be sure they have the car before you even visit!

Take the car to an outside mechanic. This is the number one, non-negotiable rule of buying any car. Ask the dealer or owner if you can take the car to your own mechanic (or a reputable mechanic you know in the area). Don't let the dealer tell you they "already checked it over." You need an unbiased opinion. If the dealer or owner refuses, do not buy the car. You can find it somewhere else.

Talk about price, not payments. This goes for new cars, too. A salesman may try to get you to agree to a certain monthly payment and not talk about the overall cost of the car. This is one way they sneak in a very large price right under your nose. Any payment level can be achieved if you take long enough to pay off the debt!

Ask for a title check. Often ordered through Carfax, ask the dealer or owner to provide a title check for you. This will tell you how many times the car has changed hands and whether it was ever declared a total loss or had severe damage. It is important to know what the car has been through before making a purchase.

Follow your gut. If something in you is saying "this situation is not quite right," listen to your gut and move on. There are likely dozens of car dealerships or sellers within easy driving distance from where you live. There's no need to buy a questionable vehicle, and you should never let yourself be strong-armed or guilt-tripped into buying anything.

We didn't cover every facet of used car buying, but these are the key ones. Buying a used car can sound like a scary experience or an easy way to lose money. But when you follow these tips, you can buy with confidence knowing that you are getting good value for your money.

Hertz Car Sales was founded in 1977 with the goal of building the best overall experience for buying affordable used cars for sale by owner. Hertz innovated used car sales by creating Hertz Rent2Buy®, the first car buying experience that lets you live with your purchase before you actually make it.

Take the Next Step:

  • Get all the facts before you buy or sell a vehicle. Edmunds.com will give you what you need to know to make a confident deal.
  • Make sure you are not overpaying for auto insurance. See how much you could save with just a few clicks. Fast, free quotes and online comparisons.

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