For most teens, money is tight and a used car is the only option available. Although your parents may be willing to chip in, buying a first car can be a valuable life lesson in saving, shopping, and financial responsibility. Here are some of the things you should look out for when shopping for a used car:
Many automakers now offer a program where you can buy a used car that goes through a multi-point dealer inspection before being offered for sale. Typically, these vehicles are former lease cars. You may be able to find a good deal. However, many of these cars may be only a few years old and out of a young driver's price range.
This is true for any car you're looking at. Ask about the vehicle's maintenance record and history, mileage, accident and ownership history, features, benefits, and asking price. Be careful, sometimes sellers are not always upfront about a car's history or problems. Make sure you bring an experienced car buyer with you for the test drive.
Set your price limit before you talk to the seller. Remember that even after buying the car you will still have to spend money on things like insurance and registration fees.
This is when having an experienced car buyer with you can really help. There may be some issues that may make a lower than "asking price" fair. You may not know any of this until you see the car in person, so be prepared to pay for the vehicle in front of you, not the one you saw in an ad. Don't be anxious. It's best to remain calm and pay what's fair, even if you think the car of your dreams may slip away from you if you don't pay what the seller asks.
Again, it's wise to bring an experienced driver with you and conduct the inspection during daylight hours only. Make sure everything is in proper order and functioning the way it should. This includes the tires, engine, body, and even the trunk! You may also want to bring the car to a mechanic for a complete inspection. Keep in mind that this will cost money; be sure that you are really interested in the car before you do this.
The way a car works is way more important than how it looks. Start the engine to make sure it starts properly and smoothly. Starting is often a good indication of engine wear and tear. Next, make sure you take the car out on a variety of surfaces, including the freeway. Even if you can only do this briefly, you will need to get an idea of how the car runs at higher speeds. Don't forget to try parking the car too. Some cars don't have great visibility in parking situations.
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