For many people, owning a reliable car is a necessity, not a luxury. Buying a new car, however, is not always an option. New cars can be prohibitively expensive, and factors such as credit ratings and insurance costs may render financing impossible. The best alternative is to prepare to buy a used car, but it is important to consider a number of issues before investing in what some car dealers euphemistically refer to as a 'pre-owned vehicle'. Buying a used car requires a different set of criteria than buying a new model straight off the lot.
One important consideration when you prepare to buy a used car is financing. This means determining an affordable price range and calculating peripheral expenses such as tags, insurance and sales tax. Unlike buying a new car, it is not unusual to pay the entire asking price of a used car with cash. When you prepare to buy a used car, consult with your bank to determine eligibility for a small loan to cover the cost of a used car. Buying a reliable used car for transportation is often a matter of saving up several hundred dollars and driving away with a bill of sale. A better quality used car may require financing from a bank, but the payments should still be more affordable than those of a new car loan through a dealership.
Another factor when you prepare to buy a used car is safety and reliability. Almost any used car is going to have at least one age-related problem, so it pays to perform a thorough inspection or hire someone who can. This car will have to start on cold winter mornings and stay cool on hot summer days. Safety features cannot show signs of imminent failure due to rough handling by the previous owner. Avoid buying any used car in which the driver has to do anything unorthodox to operate it. Some sellers assume that a used car buyer is willing to compromise safety for economy, but you don't want to find yourself on the side of a highway because of a problem concealed by the seller.
When you prepare to buy a used car, there are a few warning flags to consider. High mileage readings on a relatively young car may indicate unusually long commutes, which may have caused some stress damage to the frame. Deposits of oil on parts behind the engine block could mean gasket leaks or even some cracks in the block itself. One of the worst things to find in a used car is evidence of oil in the radiator. Other fluids should be checked for proper levels. Hoses, belts and other rubber parts should not show signs of excessive cracking or tearing, which could indicate an imminent failure.
In short, one should prepare to buy a used car with one eye on the price and one eye on the condition. Sellers can always negotiate a better price, but they can't provide a better vehicle. Be prepared to pay a few hundred dollars more in the near future for necessary repairs and upgrades. Keep in mind that when you prepare to buy a used car, you must also prepare to inherit used car problems.