Recently, an article by Allison Martin on took a look at six things to do before buying a used vehicle. The list can help you navigate the used car buying process and make sure that you get the right vehicle.

As it happens, now is a great time to be in the market for a used car. A ton of high-quality used cars are cycling through dealer lots this year. This is largely due to a record number of off-lease vehicles returning to the market. Also, a recent study showed that the best time to shop for a used car is between September and February.

It all presents an opportunity for you to get a good car at a fair price. Because the timing is right, we'd thought we'd lay out the used car buying process. Here are six things to do before buying a used vehicle.

1. Separate Needs from Wants

The age-old "needs vs. wants" debate can be tough to navigate. Martin recommends that car shoppers sit down and make a list of "must-haves." Consider your lifestyle and driving needs when doing so. This list will help you determine what you need the most out of your vehicle purchase.

You can also make a list of "nice-to-haves" to view alongside your list of needs. And remember, you can change these lists as you go along in the used car buying process. They are a nice starting point to build upon, and they help you make sure you don't end up driving away in a car that doesn't make sense for you.

2. Find Cars You Want to Consider

Got your list of needs? Good. Use it to scour listings and reviews to identify some specific models you want to consider. The internet is your best friend when doing research.

After you have found some vehicles with the attributes/features you desire, we recommend that you read up on reviews from trusted sources. Some of our favorites include:, U.S. News and World Report, Edmunds, Consumer Reports, Kelley Blue Book and J.D. Power.

3. Find Financing

Most people aren't able to pay cash for a quality used car. Car shoppers usually opt to finance one with an auto loan. When you head to the dealership with a pre-approved loan, it helps you stay on budget.

Most borrowers start with their bank or credit union. However, those with bad credit may need to rely on a dealership with subprime lending connections.

Dealerships offer financing too, and they usually have excellent relationships with several different lenders, meaning they can often find rates that are tough to beat. Even if you do head to the dealer with a pre-approved loan from a bank or credit union, they will still check with their lending resources to see if they can beat the rate.

In a nutshell, it helps to research all of your financing options to make sure that you are getting the best deal possible.

4. Work Together with Your Salesperson

Salespeople know their inventory and they are trying to help you out. If you are upfront about your budget and your list of needs and "nice-to-haves," they can likely present some options that work for you. This can help save time and narrow down your search.

While it's important to research vehicles yourself, it's okay to rely on their expertise too. Ask them questions. They should have the answers you are looking for.

5. Don't Buy from a Monthly Payment Point of View

You should never concentrate on the monthly payment instead of the total cost of the car loan. It's one of the biggest mistakes car buyers can make.

Loans can be stretched out to seven years and beyond, helping to make a monthly payment fit just about any budget. However, this makes the car cost a lot more in the long run due to interest charges. Also, this makes it harder to build equity in a vehicle and increases the chances of you being "upside down" for much longer.

6. Take your Time

There's nothing wrong with taking things slow. Buying a car is a huge financial commitment, often the second biggest one an individual makes after housing. You'll want to make sure that you love the vehicle, everything feels right and you've been exhaustive in your pre-purchase process.

If you've settled on a vehicle, you are not done yet. You should read its vehicle history report carefully to make sure it hasn't suffered serious damage in the past. You should also have it inspected by an ASE Certified Master Mechanic and a body specialist. Furthermore, you'll want to make sure you read and understand everything in the finance contract.

It's okay to go slow and take a step back to breathe and think twice before finalizing anything. Above all else, don’t be afraid to walk away if you don't feel comfortable.

The Bottom Line

The used car buying process generally involves more research compared to that of new vehicles. But if you follow Martin's steps and the advice of other experts, you should be able to find a great used vehicle for you and your budget.

If, however, you are dealing with damaged credit and can't seem to get auto loan approval, you might not know where to turn. Never fear, Auto Credit Express helps people with bad, thin or no credit find auto financing fast. Get the process started by filling out our free and easy online application today.