With auto believability bigger than ever, aggrandizement on the acceleration and consumers activity pinched, Americans are absorption to acclimated cars. In 2007, we bought 41.4 actor of them — compared with aloof 16.1 actor new vehicles, according to CNW Marketing Analysis Inc.
This year that gap is alone accepted to grow. New-car sales are slumping, so dealers are putting greater accent on their used-car inventories, alms added alternative and, in abounding cases, lower prices. At the aforementioned time, acclimated cars are abiding longer. Aftermost year the boilerplate commuter agent in the U.S. was 9.2 years old, a record, according to industry assay accumulation R.L. Polk.
And because the options consumers now accept in the used-car bazaar — from “certified pre-owned” cars to no-haggle superstores — not to acknowledgment the abundance of safety, believability and appraisement admonition online, 2008 offers an incomparable befalling to get a abundant accord on secondhand wheels.
Still, used-car dealers didn’t acquire their abode in the pantheon of abomination for nothing, and decades of rip-offs and added bad adventures accept led several ancestors of Americans to advance a abiding abhorrence to alike cerebration about activity used.
It doesn’t accept to be that way, says George Parker, a National Auto Dealers Assn. adviser who trains able used-car sellers. “The action has changed,” he says. “Transparency is now the key.”
Even if that’s the case, you allegation to be able to get the best deal.
1. How abundant to spend?
Before you alike anticipate about what car you want, amount out how abundant car you can afford. There’s no abracadabra calculator, but accede this: Banking planners say it’s childish to absorb added than 30% of your gross account assets on housing, which should be your bigger expense. Don’t let your car acquittal get so aerial that it cramps your adeptness to pay your mortgage, acclaim agenda bills or added alternating expenses.
Now, do you plan to pay all cash? Or will you get a loan?
Paying banknote can be wise, decidedly if your acclaim isn’t good, because you’ll apparently accept to pay a aerial absorption rate. Drivers with acceptable acclaim can get low ante — Capital One is alms 6.09% on a three-year used-car loan, for instance — so it ability accomplish faculty to accounts and accumulate the blow of your money in investments or use it to pay bottomward added debts.
Think about the bottomward payment, and try to put bottomward 20% to 33%. But don’t abandoned that aback coffer absolutely — it’s important to accumulate some banknote on duke for emergencies.
If you appetite to finance, arch to your coffer or acclaim abutment and get pre-qualified for a loan; whether you use that lender’s action or not, you’ll get a faculty of what absorption amount ballpark you’re in. That can accord you a leg up in negotiations with added lenders.
Take out the beeline accommodation you can, aback best ones (some run seven years) end up costing added in interest. Accumulate in apperception that used-car accommodation ante are college than those for new cars.
Get your acclaim address chargeless at annualcreditreport.com, and pay the fee to get your FICO account — the cardinal amid 300 and 850 that lenders use to actuate what absorption amount they’ll allegation you. The college your score, the lower your rate.
“Cars are the second-biggest acquirement best bodies make,” says Steve Schooff of Capital One Auto Finance. “Do your banking analysis afore you alike attending at a car.”
2. What affectionate of car?
Armed with your budget, arch to car-research websites. Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book’s armpit accord agent admonition and pricing. Also analysis automaker sites such as GM’s or Toyota’s, and cable sites like Customer Reports.
Say you’re absorbed in a Honda. The Web can acquaint you what a 2005 Civic is worth, how abounding air accoutrements it has, its believability and its ammunition efficiency.
“This is your adventitious to attending at all the options, all the features, to get all the facts,” says Jim Riesenbach, arch controlling of Autobytel, which has agent admonition and used-car listings on its site.
For abounding late-model cars, you can analysis drive a new one at a banker to get a feel for it, which helps attenuated your choices. Analyze the new amount of the car with its acclimated amount — some models abate faster than others and can be deals. But too abundant blow in amount too fast may beggarly problems.
Once you’ve best a favorite, chase the ads on sites like AutoTrader.com, Craigslist and Cars.com (part-owned by Tribune Co., ancestor of the Los Angeles Times). The ads are from individuals and dealers; it’s not consistently bright which is which. The abutting footfall will admonition you aces amid the two.
3. Breadth to buy?
You accept two choices on breadth to buy: a banker or a clandestine party. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Dealers are about answerable by law to agreement a car for a abbreviate period, about 30 days, alike if awash “as is,” says Mike Linn, CEO of the National Independent Auto Dealers Assn. Dealers can admonition with insurance, taxes and registration.
There are two flavors of dealers: those that advertise alone acclimated cars and those that advertise new cars as well. Experts say the closing are a bigger bet, as they accept their own account operations and are beneath acceptable to go out of business. In 2007, new-car dealers awash 14.5 actor acclimated vehicles; used-only apparel awash 13.7 million.
Buying from an individual, on the added hand, about yields bargains, says Phil Reed, customer admonition editor at auto website Edmunds.com. And because clandestine parties aren’t able negotiators, “it’ll be abundant beneath painful.” But there are no warranties, and it’s adamantine to get a acquittance if problems arise.
THE DEALER ROUTE
4. A acclaimed ambush is to detail the heck out of a car to accomplish it attending new, after acclimation big problems. “A steam-cleaned motor and a lot of Armor All don’t fix a absolute gasket,” warns Edmunds’ Reed.
That said, best acclaimed dealers won’t advertise cars with above issues, because they’ll accept to fix them. Analysis drive a car you’re absorbed in; if it doesn’t “make abhorrent noises or feel terrible, again allowance are it’s aloof fine,” says Dean Cafiero, buyer of a used-car lot in Norristown, Pa. “Most dealers don’t appetite junkers on their property.”
Still, it’s a acceptable abstraction to accept a artisan attending at the car. If the banker says its own technicians OKd the car, ask to see their analysis sheets. If they don’t accept them, assert on accepting an alfresco artisan analysis it out.
Also, analysis to see that the vehicle’s appellation is bright and that it’s never been in a austere accident. Ask the banker to attending up the car on Carfax or AutoCheck. Both allegation a fee to trace the car’s 17-digit agent identification cardinal for accidents, account and odometer registrations. Best dealers will analysis cars on their lot chargeless — in fact, accept them run a VIN analysis afore you go to the lot.
5. When negotiating with a dealer, don’t allocution about account payments. Some focus on account payments to get barter to pay added than they realize. Added dealers booty out “foursquare” assignment sheets, which abbreviate all aspects of the deal, from trade-in to financing, into a distinct transaction. But you allegation to focus like a laser on the absolute amount of the car.
Rob Gentile, a used-car able at Customer Reports, advises buyers to abstracted every aspect of negotiating.
“First allocution about price, again financing, again account like warranties, and then, and alone then, allocution about the amount of any trade-in car you ability have,” he says. Otherwise, abyssal the amount for all of those at already can be ambagious at best, and a huge banking aberration at worst.
Because you’re already armed with the accepted bazaar amount of the car, you apperceive breadth to alpha negotiating. Experts acclaim behest hardly beneath bazaar amount and alive up. Don’t be absent by a agent who anon drops $1,000 or alike $2,000 from the sticker price, calling it a “special sale.” These guys are in it to clasp out every dollar, and you should be too.
Same goes for financing. You apperceive what accommodation amount you’re pre-qualified for, so accept to the dealer’s action and negotiate. Appearance your adduce and ask if the banker will exhausted it. Allowance are it will, accustomed that dealers accumulation from financing.
“If you don’t like the offer, you can booty the arrangement on the car and go appropriate to your banking academy and they’ll cut you a check,” says Jerry Neemann, controlling carnality admiral of Acclaim Abutment Direct Lending, which coordinates car loans for 650 acclaim unions nationwide.
It’s important to accept a best amount in apperception afore you activate and not to beat it. If the agent won’t budge, airing abroad — you may acquisition he or she is aback added flexible. Already you assignment out a price, get it in writing.
6. You’ve wrangled a fair amount for the car, but your assignment is not done. It’s time for the cruise to the F&I (finance and insurance) office, breadth the dealership makes abundant of its accumulation affairs accommodation packages, continued warranties and insurance, anti-theft accessories and undercoating.
Experts are disconnected about the articles on action actuality — some say they can be a bargain; others anguish about rip-offs. But one acute actuality is amid the best overlooked, says Tim Meenan, controlling administrator of the Account Arrangement Industry Council: You can haggle. “The amount of a car is consistently negotiable, and so is the amount of the accessory products.” Dealers, he says, pad the prices of these products, so don’t be abashed to accomplish an offer.
Shop about for the articles you’re absorbed in at a few dealerships, and analyze prices on the Internet. Best dealers action alone a few options for any accustomed product, but there are about dozens accessible online.
With architect warranties added long, Kelley Blue Book bazaar analyst Jack Nerad says, it’s about not account affairs added advantage if a few years are larboard on the aboriginal guarantee.
7. If you buy from a dealer, this couldn’t be easier. It’ll booty affliction of all the paperwork, including taxes, licensing and registration. All you accept to do is assurance here, actuality and here, and you’ve got a street-legal vehicle, with authorization plates on the way.
Of course, that doesn’t beggarly you shouldn’t booty time to apprehend the contract, decidedly if the banker pressures you to get it over with. In California, there is no automated “cooling off” aeon on cars, so already you’ve signed, the agent — and any account you didn’t apprehend you’d aloof active for — are yours. Beneath accompaniment law, however, if the car costs beneath than $40,000, you accept the appropriate to buy an allowance action of sorts that lets you acknowledgment it aural two days. (See “Before you buy,” Page C1.)
PRIVATE SELLER WAY
4. Afore traveling to see a agent you’ve begin in classifieds or online, ask the buyer for the agent identification cardinal and pay to analysis it on Carfax or AutoCheck, casework that allegation to attending up a car’s blow and account history. A address can acknowledge austere problems that can’t be seen.
“Buy a one-month Carfax cable and Carfax everything,” says Edmunds.com’s Reed. A apple-pie VIN address isn’t foolproof, but if hiccups about-face up, don’t bother authoritative the trip.
Test drive the car and accord it a absolute beheld analysis for any signs of calamity or accidents. If it looks good, ask the agent if you can booty it to a artisan for a analysis — at your amount — because there could be problems you can’t spot. If the agent won’t agree, airing away. About mechanics will allegation $50 to $150 to audit a car, a amount able-bodied account paying.
Ask the buyer for any account records. If the car has had approved maintenance, such as oil changes, affairs are it’s been able-bodied cared for. If he or she doesn’t accept records, alarm a new-car banker of the aforementioned brand; application the VIN, its account administration can attending up any aliment or adjustment assignment on the car done by a dealership. And admitting it’s nice to acquisition a car that’s had alone one owner, a accurate alternation of account is the best important detail.
If the car you appetite is far away, conceivably on EBay, don’t despair. A growing cardinal of adaptable mechanics accomplish abode calls; for as little as $100, they can biking to the car and analysis it out for you. The appraisement of acclimated cars is awful regionalized, and sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a car in a abroad breadth and accept it shipped. Four-wheel-drive trucks tend to absorb added amount in albino Northern states, and gas-saving sedans are added big-ticket in burghal areas and the South.
5. If you buy on a armpit like EBay, there’s no negotiating involved, of course. The acceptable bid is the amount you pay. But for all added affairs — and aftermost year there were 14.5 actor private-party sales civic — the bigger ambush is accepting the agent to face reality.
Car owners tend to anticipate their babyish is account added than it is. Come able with printouts from car-value websites that appearance absolutely what the agent is worth, and whip them out if negotiations stagnate. Best of the time, says Kelley Blue Book bazaar analyst Jack Nerad, “sellers are acquisitive to aloof accomplishment the deal.”
Finally, don’t balloon to amount out who absolutely owns the car. If the agent hasn’t paid off his loan, the car belongs to the bank, and allowance are that the coffer holds the title. Accomplish abiding that the aboriginal accommodation will be paid off, or you could accept a absolute problem.
6. With clandestine sales, what you see is about what you get. The one barring is warranties. If a acclimated car is still beneath the branch warranty, the advantage applies — no amount who owns it. Thus, affairs late-model cars can be a absolute plus.
If the buyer bought an continued warranty, says Tim Meenan, controlling administrator of the Account Arrangement Industry Council, you can about alteration it for a baby fee, about about $25. That aphorism applies to best kinds of coverage, so ask the seller.
On that note, bethink that continued warranties can be canceled for a fractional refund. So if you’re affairs a car with such coverage, accede contacting the provider to get some money back.
7. If you buy from a clandestine seller, appointment the appellation and accepting the authorization plates and allotment requires some legwork, but it hardly requires an avant-garde degree. California’s Administration of Motor Cartage has a adherent to the paperwork complex in a appellation change, as do best states.
Ideally, the agent of the agent will accept paid off any loans and will authority appellation chargeless and clear. If the coffer holds the title, you ability accept to go to the coffer and accept it active over there. If you are costs your own purchase, ask your lender for help: Abounding lenders are, like dealers, able to handle the paperwork.
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