If you have decided that a used car is the right choice for you, you should be ready for all that requires. Buying used allows you to avoid a vehicle's steep initial depreciation drop, but it also means more research to reduce the chance of buying somebody else's problems. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to lower the risks associated with buying a used car.

Today, the process of buying a used vehicle is far less stressful and risky than it once was. Thanks to the internet, consumers have a lot of information at their disposal. All you need to do is use it. Your used car buying mission can go smoothly if you do your homework and follow these six steps:

6 Steps to Buying a Used Car

Following these six steps will help you successfully navigate the process of buying a used car.

  • Step 1: Set a Car-Buying Budget
    If you plan on paying with cash, your budget is already set based on the amount you have saved up. But if you need to finance a vehicle, you'll have to determine how much you can afford by looking at all of your monthly expenses and adding in a car payment (keeping in mind additional costs such as car insurance, tax, title, and license fees, fuel, and maintenance). The key is to not get over your head but choose a vehicle that you can comfortably afford, so set an estimated price range and stick to it.buying a used car
  • Step 2: Build a List of Potential Targets
    The price range that you set in step one will help you establish the types of vehicles you can afford to finance. Consider what your driving needs are to find out what's important for the vehicle to have (such as good fuel economy, enough seating for a family, etc.) in order to build a target list of cars. Once you have identified a few vehicles that meet your needs and fall within your budget, it's time to research them. There is no shortage of information sources for consumers to consult (J.D. Power studies, Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, Consumer Reports, NADA Guides, etc.), to look up pricing and gather reviews and ratings from.
  • Step 3: Locate Used Cars for Sale in Your Area
    Once you have identified some ideal targets, it's time to find some specific vehicles to consider. You can consult the classifieds or peer-to-peer car buying sites if you are looking to buy from a private party, or you can search the inventories of dealerships in your area. It's a good idea to make a list of vehicles you find to compare their prices, mileage, and features against one another.

  • Step 4: Contact the Seller or Visit the Dealership
    If you find a couple of good prospective cars that you feel are worth checking out, it's time to call the seller to set up a meeting or to visit the dealership in person. Make sure that you ask questions and verify all of the car's information. Examples of things you want to find out: how many people have owned the vehicle, if there are service records, and if it's been in an accident or needed any major repairs.
  • Step 5: Examine the Car and Investigate Its History
    Now it's time to get a look at a vehicle in person to check out its condition and take it for a test drive. Sit in it, make sure all of the buttons, knobs and controls work, and drive it under the conditions of your normal driving patterns. If you like the way it drives, you will want to get a vehicle history report and have it inspected by both a mechanic and body specialist that you trust. If the body report is negative - i.e. salvage title, been in a significant accident, had serious repairs - then you should move on from it. The same goes if the mechanic doesn't like what he sees while doing a thorough pre-purchase inspection. While these inspections may cost some money, it's better to pay for them now than spend thousands on repairs later.
  • Step 6: Close the Deal
    Thanks to you preparation and research, you should know what others in your area have paid for a similar vehicle. Know where your tipping point is and don't go any higher when finalizing the sale. With private party sales, make sure the agreed-upon price is final and have the seller properly transfer the title and registration before any money changes hands. If at a dealership, you should read through the entire sales contract to know what you are signing before closing the deal.

Buying used certainly requires more research and leg work than a new car purchase, but the process can be successfully completed by following these steps. Then, all that's left to do is enjoy your new car.

What If I Have Bad Credit?

If you have bad credit and need to finance a vehicle, don’t despair. Auto Credit Express can help you find a dealership in your area that can help you get approved. And the same steps to buying a used car still apply to those with less than perfect credit.

The best part is that your auto loan can start you on the path to credit recovery. By making all of the payments on time, you can improve your credit standing by the time the loan is complete.

Don't let your credit hold you back from getting the vehicle you need. Simply complete our fast, free and secure online application to get the process started.