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9 Invaluable Tips for Choosing the Right Used Car

Updated on November 7, 2014

Buying a used car is not a science, it is an art

Sorry to say, there is not one single best used car out there to purchase. If that were true, we could write a program to compare all of the cars for sale online and arrive quickly at the best choice.

A car is a personal choice as much as an economic one. Some people really like Dodge, others wouldn't drive anything but a Ford. You get the idea -- it's not just about price or condition.

These tips will help you turn your decision to purchase a used car into an opportunity to enlist your personal preferences and tendencies about cars to your advantage in your search for the right used car.

FACT: Used cars generate $700 billion a year in the United States

Tip #1: Do not make an impulse purchase

Sometimes the decision to purchase a used car comes suddenly -- you receive an unexpected bonus or your long lost uncle left you an unexpected inheritance. Do not make an impulse purchase of a used automobile.

You should never visit a used car dealership without knowing exactly what vehicle or vehicles you are interested in purchasing and what price you are willing to pay.

Any other approach makes you their next used car victim. I promise.

Tip #2: Choose your vehicle before you visit any sales lots

Do not let a used car salesman educate you on the various and sundry benefits of the cars in his lot. Learn about and choose your vehicle and price range before you arrive.

Tip # 3: Do not buy a used vehicle that you cannot afford

This is simple common sense. Remind yourself, because car salesmen would like you to pay much more.

Tip #4: Choose the style of car you are seeking first

Do you need a compact, a mid sized, an SUV, a cargo van, a passenger van, a station wagon? You can only choose one.

Tip #5: Research the various makes of that style

Knowing the style of vehicle you are seeking allows you to take advantage of the research done by others. If you are seeking a mid sized sedan, for example, you can search for comparisons between mid sized sedans. Style comparisons are published much more frequent than brand comparisons.

Tip #6: Visit only the dealerships that have the car you are seeking in stock and test drive those cars only.

Duh.

FACT: The average lifespan of a car in the United States is just over ten years.

Tip #7: Look for "bargain" moments

The very best bargain opportunity with used cars comes at the end of design cycles and at the end of time cycles. When the new redesigned vehicle hits the market, the older model falls quickly in value.

If you have decided upon a vehicle style (e.g. mini-van) either look for models that had recent design changes, and search for the last model year of the old design or wait until the new model year cars are delivered to the dealership and look for the newest used models.

Tip #8: Be patient or be flexible

Used cars are constantly bought and sold. If the kind of car you want to buy is not available when you identify your choices, wait a few weeks. Check again. If you don't want to wait, look for vehicles with similar qualities in the same price range. Do not depend upon a car salesman to identify a similar vehicle. Do your own research before returning to test driving any other car.

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FACT: You Can Save Money with a Smart Used Car Purchase

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