Over 40 million used vehicles were sold in 2018, according to Edmunds.. Buying a used vehicle can save you money up front and on the cost of registration, insurance, and taxes. But there are many factors to consider when shopping for a used car. If you’re considering a pre-owned car, use the tips in this guide as a car shopping checklist so you get what you bargained for.

Start with a Budget

First, you need to know what is affordable for you. Start with the price of the car and consider the possibility of future repairs. Monthly car payments should be less than 20% of your take-home pay, but the tighter your budget, the less you want to spend.

Analyzing your budget allows you to set a price range. If you can afford a higher-quality vehicle, a certified pre-owned (CPO) can offer more reliability, as it has passed more rigorous tests. Research average prices for the model in your area. You don’t want to overpay, but if the price is much lower than similar models, there may be other expenses later.

Research Used Car Options

In researching ahead of your car purchase, consider the type, make, and model as well as the model year. Sedans, SUVs, crossovers, hatchbacks, trucks, and hybrids all have their advantages and, if you have certain priorities or concerns, research different brands and how they rank in reliability and maintenance over time. The age of the vehicle and its mileage are important as well; typically, a car is driven about 12,000 miles per year; pricing is usually adjusted based on this benchmark.

Other factors to consider include:

These tips on research can help with online car shopping. Online reviews and rankings are useful too. You can find ratings and maintenance reports for cars via J.D. Power or Consumer Reports. Rankings for safety, reliability, comfort, and other attributes are determined by collecting information from many vehicle owners.

Find a Local Car Dealership

Create a list of cars you’re interested in and find local car dealerships that sell them. Car sites can help you locate a dealer. Working with a dealership is more reliable than purchasing from an independent seller. Dealers can offer better pricing and set you up with financing. Plus, many are now working with customers online for safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Obtain a Vehicle History Report

Run the vehicle identification number to obtain important information on the car’s history from Carfax or AutoCheck. This can reveal whether the vehicle has been in an accident, fire, or flood. Avoid any cars that have been issued a salvage title by an insurance company. The report will also tell you the exact mileage; if this differs from the odometer reading, the odometer may have been set back to increase selling price.

Test Drive the Car

A car may look good, but that’s not the full story. Only by taking a test drive can you judge its power, speed, acceleration, and handling of turns. Make sure the brakes are responsive, the tires grip the road, and all controls are easy to reach. Visibility, air conditioning, and storage should all be sufficient. While you’re at it, check the cargo area and test whether your phone will connect via Bluetooth (if the vehicle supports it).

Get an Inspection

Take the car to a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. This may cost around $100 or so, but helps determine the true condition of the vehicle. Don’t take “certified” to mean anything about the car’s condition; it’s not the same as CPO; a CPO model has already been inspected.

Finalize the Deal

With your budget, average market price, and the car’s condition in mind, try to negotiate a fair price. Before you sign the paperwork, think about whether additional warranties or service plans may be worthwhile. And, be sure to review the sales contract, including all fees and taxes, before you sign; this will ensure there are no hidden surprises.

Contact Hawthorne Auto Square

Hawthorne Auto Square is a premier Buy-Here Pay-Here dealership near Los Angeles that can help you find a used car based on your needs and budget. We’re open during the coronavirus pandemic, sanitizing our facilities and adhering to social distancing procedures while providing high-quality customer service. Our inventory consists of a wide range of popular and luxury vehicles. For more information and to learn about our financing options, call 866-707-7664 today!