How to buy a used car checklist

Review your contract. Make sure the numbers match what you agreed to in the sales office and your own estimates. Get it in writing. Check the gas gauge. New cars are sold with a full tank of gas. Check the fuel level before you leave the lot. There are other ways to buy cars, but this checklist covers the most common dealership transaction.

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Keep it with you as protection — and a money-saver — the next time you go car shopping. At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. Our opinions are our own. Check your credit. This is especially important for borrowers with fair to poor credit generally below , who may face higher rates. About the author. Refinance your car loan.

Try Kelley Blue Book , Edmunds. Instead, arrive at the lot armed with the fair market price and negotiate from that number instead. Using The Zebra , you can get quotes in just minutes and compare. Make sure you know important rating information such as your driving history, general credit score range, and preferred coverage levels so you can ensure your quote is as accurate as possible.

Get Competing Auto Loan Offers In Minutes

Because auto insurance is our expertise, we created a car insurance buying guide to help you understand what you need and what you can afford. The steps, in a nutshell:. When you know what car you want to purchase, look into private financing. Before visiting any dealerships, which usually offer financing, consider seeing what rates your personal bank or a credit union can offer you.

Even if you go with the dealer for financing, you can use your quote to ensure you get the best price. Average time: 2 hours per dealership for steps 13—17, for a total of about 6 hours. If you can visit during the week — say, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday — you might have better luck with smaller crowds.

Or, spend a weekend making your visits. Either way, you might not want to spread your visits out too much because many offers are time-sensitive.

More about when to shop here. Buying an electric car at a dealership can be somewhat challenging because dealers are sometimes not as knowledgable about them as they are more traditional vehicles. Check out make and model varieties, inquire about any and all features, and take a few rides for a test drive.

How to Test Drive and Buy a Used Car

Make sure to bring up any questions or potential concerns with dealers. There are plenty of other options. Some of us love the thrill, while others of us simply wilt. Have each dealership write down the price you settle on, and show other dealers to see if they can beat the price. Sometimes dealers will only guarantee a price for a short time, so you may need to move quickly.

Get the most for your ride with these tips. Any traces of paint spray on handles, window seals or plastic mouldings? Could the car's colour have been changed? Look under carpets and in other hidden areas in particular. Any unusual looking welding under the bonnet or in the boot?

Safety Are the tyres in good condition and all of the specification and dimensions? Tyres with less than 3mm of tread will have to be replaced soon. Are the jack and other tools present? Do all the seatbelts operate correctly?

Buying Used American Cars?

Check there are no cuts or fraying that could affect the way they work. If airbags are fitted, Check that warning lights operate as described in the handbook — normally they will come on with the ignition and then go out? Test drive Do all warning lights operate normally? Lights will generally come on to test and then go out — unless there's a fault.

Are the brakes effective or does it take a long time or a lot of effort to stop?

Buying a used car checklist - Young Driver's Guide

Is braking even or does the car pull to one side? Any unusual noises when you brake? Is the handbrake effective? Any steering vibration or pull to one side? If ABS is fitted, does the warning light go out after the engine is started? Engine Any abnormal noises when the engine is started from cold? Does the oil warning light go out as soon as the engine starts? Any signs of excessive visible exhaust emissions? Does the clutch operate normally?