How much do you want to spend?
Get your financing in order first whether it is cash from your savings or a loan from your bank; that way you know exactly what price range you are able to afford.
What are you looking for?
Decide which vehicle features are “must haves”. Maybe color is negotiable, but a sun-roof is not. Or you’ve gotta have 4 wheel drive, but leather seats are not necessary. Everyone’s vehicle needs are different. If you have this decided before you start shopping, you are more likely to be satisfied with your selection in the end and stay within your budget.
Stop, Look and Listen
Don’t be rushed, you should get to thoroughly inspect the car inside and out.
Look carefully for signs of wear, or repairs that might indicate the vehicle has had problems or been in an accident and ask a lot of questions. Trust your gut if the answers seem fishy.
For example: If the odometer says 72,000 but all the upholstery is worn out and there is a lot of rust, you may be looking at 172K not the 72K the owner is claiming.
Or if the exhaust seems loud and the seller brushes it off saying “Don’t worry about it. That’s the way the kids like to drive ‘em now,” – walk away and keep looking.
What’s it worth to you?
You can use online services to check the selling price of similar vehicles. Kelly Blue Book’s online service www.kbb.com lets you enter specific data about the mileage and condition of the vehicle and provides you with realistic values.
Call in the Experts
No matter where you find your car, always ALWAYS have an expert (a professional auto mechanic or other knowledgeable person) check the vehicle before you buy it. The flaws the mechanic finds could save you from a lemon or at least help you negotiate a better price.
You can usually find the car that meets your needs at a price you are willing to pay if you are patient and diligent in your search.