Buying a used car could be a trying experience from some people. Apart from finding the money to pay for it, making a decision about the model, price, features, color, specifications etc., can get confusing especially when you do not know much about cars. Besides, buying a used car can be frightening experience if you bought one that had a lot of problems.

So, here are some tips you need to know before you go shopping for your next car:

  1. Decide how much you want to spend on your car.
  2. Compare makes and brands for the model year you need and the price range you are willing to pay.
  3. Go to a junk yard and determine how many cars are scrapped that you identified in No 2 above.  If there are many more as compare to other brands then it could mean that these cars breaks down frequently and repair costs are high. This could indicate that you should look at other brands which have less repair frequency and last long.  
  4. Go to your credit union or bank and ask to see a copy of the N.A.D.A. book indicating the value of the car you identified in No 2 above. With this information in hand, visit your car dealers and ask to see the make and brand of cars within your price range.
  5. Once you find the cars in your price range do the following:
  • Examine the car’s body. Look for dents, scratches, body filler, etc., and whether the car was in any collision. Look in the trunk under the matting. Lift the mats inside the car and look for rust spots and water damage. Look in the engine compartment for signs of water damage and excessive rust build up. Sometimes car dealers try to sell cars that were damage by floods from other locations.  
  • Next, examine the engine itself. Determine if it was maintained well or not. Look for wet oily spots on the engine as this may indicate the extent of oil leaks. If excessive, it could mean the car use a lot of oil and the gaskets have deteriorated badly. The engine may not last very long. Check the oil levels and determine if the color is normal or abnormal. Check the mileage. Get a copy of the car fax. High mileage is fine if the car fax shows they were highway miles. A city car with a lot of starting and stopping could be seen as an overworked engine.
  •  Another tip to buy a car is to drive the car and check if the brakes are soft or hard. By pressing the pedal it may feel soft or hard to stop the car. If brakes feels soft, and the brakes are grabbing smoothly it might be fine. If the car is hard to stop, the brakes shoes and pads might be binding and the brakes system may need repairs or replacement.
  • With the car running, test the air conditioning system to see if it is blowing cold air.  Turn the heating system "on" and test it for proper heating levels. Keep the hood open and listen for any unusual noises and circumstances – engine knocks, oil leaks, overheating, unusual vibrations etc.
  • Again, with the hood open, examine the wiring system to determine if the wires are caked, and look worn out and need replacing. Test all the lighting, turning and parking signals, wiper system and determine whether all the instruments in the instruments panel are working as required by law.

If you are satisfied with the condition of the car based on all these tests and checks, get your mechanic to give you a final analysis of the car before you start negotiating the purchase.

If you have done your homework properly, it is likely that you would have picked a car that will give you many years of good service. These tips to buy a car will have served you very well!