Buying your first car is a rite of passage regardless if you’re 16 or 26. There’s nothing like slipping behind the wheel and knowing you are king – or queen – of the road.
Finding the right used car and paying for it, however, can be tricky for anyone of any age, but especially for teens. Used cars are sold through a variety of outlets: dealers, rental car companies, leasing companies, used car superstores, online and individuals. Ask friends, relatives and coworkers for recommendations and check out the business with your BBB at wynco.bbb.org.
Where to begin? First, determine how much you can afford and how you you will pay for the vehicle. Is it a gift from your parents or grandparents? Will you be taking out a loan and making payments? If you’re underage, you’ll need a cosigner. Who will be responsible for insurance? And don’t forget to factor in gas mileage and general upkeep in determining the annual cost to own the vehicle.
After determining how much you can afford, your next step is to find the perfect car. Although the car may look terrific on the outside, it’s what’s under the hood that matters. Whether you’re buying from a dealer or an individual, request a Carfax report, which will tell you whether or not the vehicle has been in an accident, if it was ever stolen, who owns the title and more.
Then examine the car using an inspection checklist, which you can find in magazines, books and on websites that deal with used cars. Test the car under varied road conditions such as hills, highways and stop-and-go traffic. Ask for the vehicle’s maintenance record.
And then go one step further. Take the car to an independent mechanic that you trust (you can find one at wynco.bbb.org) to ensure there aren’t undetectable issues that will cost big bucks later.
Before negotiating a price, determine the value of the vehicle by checking the National Automobile Dealers Association’s (NADA) Guides, Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book. Research frequency of repair and maintenance costs on the models in auto-related magazines and check the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Vehicle Safety Hotline (888-327-4236) for information on recalls.
If you decide to finance, shop around for a loan that makes sense for you. Compare offers and negotiate the best deal you can. Before signing the contract, make sure you understand the loan agreement, including the exact price, how much will be financed, the finance charge, how many payments will be made and the total sales price including down payment and monthly payments.
What happens if you purchase a car and a day or two later you have serious regrets? Although dealers are not required by law to give used car buyers a three-day right to cancel, some do offer a money-back guarantee or a “no questions asked” return policy. Make sure you ask about the dealer’s return policy and get it in writing before purchasing the vehicle.
Start With Trust. For more consumer information and tips, visit wynco.bbb.org.