The Lazy Person’s Guide to Buying a Used Car
When it comes to buying a used car, many of us definitely do not look forward to schlepping from dealership to dealership, or searching through Craigslist and then visiting private sellers.
Talking to salespeople? Puhlease! We’d rather have a cavity filled. Negotiating with a private-party seller who doesn’t understand the meaning of the Kelley Blue Book and who still insists on taking no less than $5,000 for a 2006 Ford Focus hatchback with manual transmission and 120,000 miles on it? We’d rather just sit in stop-and-go traffic for four hours to travel five miles. (Bring it on; we have satellite radio!)
But there is an easier way, one with far fewer headaches and glitches. We titled this post “the lazy person’s guide to buying a used car,” but a better headline could be “The smart and easy way to buy a used car.”
Spend more time napping and less on the showroom floor with our tips for making the car buying process easy.
- First important steps: know your budget (and don’t go over it) and be pre-approved for a car loan.
Sticking to your budget means you can’t be tempted by a salesperson to buy a more expensive car. (So there goes a lot of time spent with a salesperson!) Having an approved car loan also means you know exactly what you can spend on the car, and no more. Again, no more salespeople trying to sell you a more expensive car and therefore a lot less talking to salespeople.
- Research online for makes and models in your price range.
You can search the Kelley Blue Book for the value of the makes and models you’re interested in. Knowing these cars’ values will help you in your negotiations.
Find cars that meet your criteria and head on out to the dealerships where they are located.
- Or not.
If you really don’t want to deal with car salespeople, you can search for cars online at one or more online care dealerships. These are dealerships which run entirely online: there’s no way for you to go see a car and kick its tires (until later). You go to the site, search for a car in your price range, buy the car and the company arranges for the car to be delivered to you. Many – it not most – allow you to keep the car for up to a week or so, allowing you to “test drive” the car before fully committing to it.
These sites probably are the “laziest” way of all to buy a used car: you don’t go to dealerships. You simply look at the cars the company offers online, pay for it and then try it out.
- You also could try a car broker.
These are people to whom you say “I want this make/model of a car at this price.” The broker then goes searching for the car and – the biggest selling point when it comes to using a car broker – negotiates the price for you and then procures it for you. You pay the broker a flat fee for this service (usually $200 to $1,000, and it’s not based on the price of the car you buy).
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