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A Buyer's Guide to Used Cars

Buying a used car often comes with over-told urban legends about getting sold a “lemon”. But in fact, investing in a quality pre-owned vehicleis one of the best ways to save money on transportation regardless of your economic status. The federal government has made buying a pre-owned car advantageous to buyers, providing strict reseller guidelines including a document called the buyer’s guide – a complete, transparent list of all the car’s features and pre-existing issues. Usually, these are posted on the inside or outside of a window and easily readable to those browsing the lot.

While the FTC-required buyer’s guide is a start, it is not the only thing you need to know before buying from a used car dealership.

Here is Auto Bank of Kansas City’s top eight things you should know before buying a used car.

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1. Research the type of car you want.

Researching car types you are interested in is crucial to narrowing down the time spent at the dealership and knowing what issues to look for in a car. Because used car dealerships almost always provide information about the state of the car, knowing the prevalent issues your desired make and model is prone to before going to the dealership will prepare you for future repairs and help you see how well the vehicle was maintained before ending up at the dealer.

2. Take it for a test drive.

Car owners can often feel when there is something wrong with a car. Even if you have yet to own the make and model you are test driving, there are typical issues (like rumbles, brake testing, and generic sounds) that can tip you off to things that might be wrong. If you test drive this and find anything concerning, bring it up with the dealer. Chances are they might know about the issue and will be able to explain it on the buyer’s guide, but even if they don’t, they need to know about it. It might even be a point that could lower how much you pay for the vehicle should you choose to buy it.

3. Know that you can get the car inspected prior to purchase.

Dealerships are supposed to tell you all about your car prior to purchasing it, but that doesn’t always mean they do. If you sense there is any information being hidden, or there might be an issue the dealership hasn’t disclosed, offer to get it inspected. This step might not be necessary at a trusted, reputable used car dealership, but it is a must for buying directly from an owner.

4. Set a budget for the car you want…

One of the biggest mistakes used car buyers make is not setting a budget prior to walking into a used car dealership. Reputable dealerships will ask you what your budget is before showing you the lot. Finding out budgetary information helps them sell you the best car. If the only information you give to your dealer is your yearly income, this doesn’t account for several other factors, like how much you already pay in bills per month and how consistent your income is. For this information, you will need to do personal budget crunching before reaching the lot to know just how much in monthly payments you can afford.

5. ...But don’t set your budget too low.

Of course, many set their budgets very low, and this does two different things. First, it significantly lowers the options you will have available to you. Second, it cannot guarantee you a car that won’t need a lot of work. If you’re good with your hands and know how to fix cars, you might be in the market for an older car. Lower-priced fixer-uppers from reputable lots are excellent for this purpose. But if you know nothing about cars and want to save in the long run, it is best to pay a little more up-front to prevent many future repairs.

6. Remember fees also need to be part of your budget.

While the fees involved with buying a used car are usually nowhere near as hefty as those involved with buying a new car, fees do still exist at used car dealerships. These include sales tax, documentation (including your license if you don’t yet have it) and registration costs. Your used car dealer can often help you understand about how much it will cost you to deal with these fees, but there are also tools available online that will show you average fees per make, model, and year of the cars you are interested in.

7. Define the warranty terms.

Many used car dealerships will have warranties on their products, but not all. Therefore, understanding the terms of the warranty (or if there is a warranty at all) before purchasing the vehicle will help you save time, money, and future hassle.

8. Realize you might not get what you want the first time you visit a dealership.

It’s understandable to feel discouraged when you visit a used car dealership and don’t find the car you are looking for right away. Whether it’s due to budgetary reasons or dealership stock, many used car buyers don’t walk away from the lot with a new car the first time. What is good to keep in mind is this might help you in the long run. There will eventually be a car in your budget, and if you save yourself from impulse buying the first used car you see on the lot you might end up saving money on a car you truly love.

Are you in the market for a new-to-you car at a fraction of the cost? Auto Bank of Kansas City has you covered. We have two Kansas City, Missouri locations – one at 6901 East Front Street and one at 2000 E. Truman Road. We also serve those in North Kansas City, Independence, Gladstone, and Wyandotte County. In addition to our Missouri locations, we are available to residents in Kansas City, Kansas for all their used car needs.

For more information, contact us at (816) 241-7880 (our Truman Road location) or (816) 231-9300 (our Front Street location). Our service department is available 9am-6pm Monday through Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturday. We are closed on Sundays. We look forward to helping you find your next quality used car.