Even though buying a car – new or used – can seem like a big financial decision, it’s not as hard as it may seem. Here are seven easy steps to buying a used car.

1. Know Your Limitations before You Even Start

Make sure you know how much you are willing to spend on your purchase before you do any thing. Don’t forget to factor in monthly loan payments if that’s a factor. Find a number you’re comfortable with and commit to sticking to it – no matter how cute and fun-to-drive little sports car on the lot is. Don’t even look at it if it’s out of your range. You’ll save yourself tons of heartbreak when you stick to your budget.

Don’t let the salesperson pressure you outside of your range. The image of the slick and sleazy used car salesman is dying like the dinosaur, but don’t forget that they are still sales people working on commission. The more they sell, the more they make. Don’t cave in to pressure and stay within your price range.

2. Shop Around Before You Make a Decision

Don’t ever buy the first time you see a car, especially a used car. It’s best to shop around, visiting many dealerships before making your final decision. You’ll want to look at as many different cars as you can. Make sure to test drive those that make it to the top of your list. I recommend spending a whole day window shopping. Try to visit more than one dealership. Finding a salesperson you feel comfortable with is just as much a part of your decision as finding the right used car.

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When you get back home, spend some time looking online for information about the cars that seem most promising. You can find reviews and information about any car. You’ll uncover a lot of information this way the dealer never thought to tell you.
Check out used car listings in the classified section of your local newspaper. There are also used car buying guides and auto trader magazines which list used cars for sale. You’ll get a good idea of what similar cars are selling for. You may even find a car in better condition or for a better price.

3. Check Out the Car Before You Buy

Inspect any used car before you buy it. Make a list of all the things that are important to you. If you don’t know much about cars, enlist the help of a friend who does. Or rely on your Internet research to find out the questions you should ask.

Check the engine. Inspect the body for damage. Ask for maintenance records if they are available. Request a vehicle history record for any vehicle you are seriously considering. Always test drive a used car before you buy it. Make sure you drive it under different conditions – both city streets and highways, for example.

Ask if you can have the car inspected by a third-party mechanic. If you trust your mechanic to give you good advice, this can often be the deciding factor. Don’t always rely solely on a dealer’s staff mechanic to tell you everything you’ll need to know.

4. Rely on Your Gut Instinct

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Because buying a used car is such a big decision, you want to make sure you are totally satisfied with all aspects of the deal – that includes feeling good about buying.

If you get an uneasy feeling about a car, trust that instinct. Never make any deal if you are unhappy with the car or confused about any issue. These feelings are often nature’s way of protecting you, so trust and rely on them when making such an important decision. It’s OK to walk away, especially if don’t think you have gotten a fair price.

5. Have Fun

Buying a used car can be a major decision in your life. It’s easy to become stressed and impatient. Relax and have fun. Try to enjoy the shopping experience and the thrill of finding that perfect car. If you follow the tips in this article, you will be well-informed, prepared, and ready to sign the deal. Don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine.