What to Look for When Buying Your First Used Vehicle

Embarking on your first journey into the used car realm can be overwhelming. There are so many options and different kinds of sellers, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could wind up with an unreliable ride that came with a too-high price tag. 

Before you start browsing cars for sale in Albuquerque, NM, we highly recommend thinking about three key steps. These acts of preparation will prevent you from stumbling into a bad situation or purchasing a car that you’ll regret owning. 

Let’s discuss.

1) Consider Your Needs More Than Your Wants 

As you flip through a used car magazine, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the latest and greatest car features that sellers have to offer. From high-tech cameras to fancy leather seats and heaters, there are hundreds of upgrades that could propel you to choose certain vehicles over another. 

However, features like those aren’t necessarily the ones you should be prioritizing on your hunt for the best used car. Things like the car’s age, mileage, price tag, and size can matter much more, especially if you’re on the hunt for a family-friendly vehicle on a budget. 

Prior to seeing any cars in-person, define what your needs are. What are the features you can’t live without, and which ones are bonuses but not necessarily vital? 

2) Define a Budget Far in Advance 

Before you step into a dealership, or even start browsing Craigslist Albuquerque, NM for cars by owner, remember that just because a car is used doesn’t mean it’s a good deal for your budget. 

A safe rule of thumb is to make sure you’ll spend less than 15 percent of your monthly take-home pay on car expenses. If purchasing a used car for $25,000 means you won’t be able to do that, then you’re likely looking at price ranges that are too high. 

Do some math beforehand to define what car price is truly in your budget. Our suggestion is to do this way before you start seeing cars in-person. Otherwise, it’s easy to get wrapped up in details and fall in love with a vehicle that’s outside of your budget. 

Another thing to consider in advance is how you will pay for the car. Will you be financing it? If so, you’ll need to figure out the interest rates banks will give you for a pre-owned car – either purchased from a dealer or a private seller. Iron out all the financial details before you make any commitments.  

3) Always Do Your Homework 

When you start to flip through a New Mexico car and truck magazine, it’s easy to focus on the big things like price tags and car colors – more than the nitty-gritty details. If you want to ensure you’re getting a good deal and a safe vehicle; you need to do your homework. 

  • Check the History of the Car 

Whether you’re buying a used car from a dealership or an individual seller, it’s essential that you understand the history of the car.

  1. Have the pedals been worn out? 
  2. Was it involved in any accidents? 
  3. Has it had major work done? 

Watch for discrepancies in odometers, signs that the vehicle has been repainted, and any other red flags that pop up. The last thing you want to do is buy a vehicle that has secret issues that have been covered up. 

Regardless of how you buy your vehicle, you need to do a thorough check on its history. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources to do this. AutoDNA is a good tool to check the vehicle’s VIN – this will pull up the history report. If you buy from a dealer, they may provide this for you.

  • Go for a Test Drive 

If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: you should always take a car out for a drive before you make any commitments. Drive in silence and listen for noises that sound concerning, and take note if the car pulls to one side or drives awkwardly. 

Listen to your gut. If something seems wrong with the car, chances are, you’re not wrong. 

  • Compare Car Values 

Before you sign anything, make sure that you research the value of the model you’re buying thoroughly. You can use free tools like CARFAX and Kelley Blue Book to determine if the price you’re paying is equivalent to what other sellers are offering. 

Remember to include information such as mileage and exterior appearance in your estimated value. If you feel that a seller is overcharging you, be prepared to walk away or negotiate your way to a better price. 

In Conclusion 

As a first-time car buyer, it’s difficult to weed out the viable vehicle options from the overpriced, unsafe ones. The key is to do your research and come armed with a firm budget and a list of needs that you won’t compromise on. Car shopping might be stressful, but being prepared takes a large heap of anxiety away.

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