Easy Riding: How to save time and money on your next used car purchase

For most people, buying a used car is often a very painful and frustrating experience. Much of this suffering can be avoided, however, with a little knowledge and advance preparation. After many years of finding used cars for other people, I have learned a few things that can make the process much easier – and almost, I dare say, fun.   STEP 1: PROCESS OF ELIMINATION One of the most important steps in buying a used car is determining the type of car to buy. This may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of people that end up buying the first car that comes their way. It is important to ask three very basic questions:   1. What do I need? As much as you may WANT a sporty convertible, practical is usually the best route to take. Here you should consider things like size, warranty, resale, required options, and how long you plan on keeping the car. Tip: Most import cars have a 5-year warranty from the original date of purchase that is transferable to the new owner.   2. What can I afford? If money is no object then you can disregard everything in number 1 and for that matter stop reading right now – this article is not for you! For the rest of us that have a budget – look closely at it. How much money do you have on hand (if any?) as a down payment? Do you want to lease or finance? How much can you afford per month? You should also get pre-approved for a car loan from your friendly local banker. Tip: Most banks’ car loan interest rate is negotiable within reason – 1% or 2% on a loan this size is significant!   3. What reliable models should I consider? Now that you have a basic idea of what you need, it’s time for the tough part – RESEARCH. There, I said it – I know it’s an ugly word but it’s important. There is a wealth of information available now. The Internet may be good depending on how comfortable you are with it. Other publications like Lemon-Aid and Consumer Reports are easy to understand and readily available at the local library or bookstore. Tip: Avoid personal opinions – chances are friends or relatives have biases based on limited experience. Let the experts recommend cars that...
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