Many people choose late model used cars over brand new cars for the financial benefits. Some choose older used cars because they’re a more affordable option. Others choose a used car as their child’s first car. Whatever your reasons for buying a used car, there are a few things you can do to make sure that you get a good deal, and that the experience is a good one.

Here are our top tips to make used car buying an easier and more enjoyable experience all round:

  • Decide what your budget is, before you start your search. This should help you to set realistic expectations, and will allow you to do research before you start shopping, so that you know what sort of vehicles you can expect to be looking at.
  • Be realistic, and remember that if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Many used car buyers are taken in by deals that seem amazing, but end up bringing heartache and expense.
  • Research options before you go shopping. The internet can be a wealth of information about used cars, including what you can expect from a particular model or year. While it can’t give you all the information you need, it can give you a good basis to start shopping for the models that seem to suit your needs best.
  • Unless you are purchasing a classic car, and you want one from a particular year (which is a completely different car shopping trip!), it’s always a good idea to buy as new a car as you can afford. While kilometers on the odometer and type of use will be a factor, in the broadest sense, younger is better.
  • While you’re at it, if you can purchase a used car that is still within the warranty period, you can buy a little more peace of mind, or look for extended warranties or maintenance packages offered by the dealer.
  • Exercise caution when choosing whether to buy from a dealer or a private sale or auction. While you might get a great bargain from the latter, you also can’t be sure, and in many cases, once the money leaves your account on a private or auction sale, you have no recourse. Not to mention that you generally cannot finance private or auction purchases, while you can finance many second hand cars purchased from a dealer.
  • Investigate the dealership. Remember that even if you buy from a dealership, you may still be buying into trouble. Be sure to check out the dealership you’re considering buying from. Ask family and friends, and read online reviews.
  • Ask about certification. You often see the word certified when you’re shopping for used cars, but it doesn’t always mean the same thing. Ask to see documentation about inspections or servicing, and if there’s anything that doesn’t seem above board or official, ask questions.
  • When in doubt, take a mechanic along with you. If you know nothing about cars, you might find yourself being talked into a purchase that doesn’t meet your needs. Taking your own mechanic along can help to give you a better footing for negotiations, and identify major problems.
  • Never be afraid to negotiate, or to walk away from a deal that doesn’t suit your needs. It’s okay to negotiate a better deal on a used car if you can, and if you can’t get the deal you need, it’s okay to walk away. There are other used cars out there, and you don’t have to buy the first one that crosses your path.

When you deal with a good car dealership, they’ll be happy to help with the selection, financing and evaluation of used cars that meet your needs and your budget. Take your time, and don’t jump into anything that doesn’t feel right. The right used car is out there. You just need a little patience to find it.