When buying a used car, the choices can seem overwhelming. Between dealerships, newspapers, the Recycler, AutoTrader.com, and countless online car listings, the possibilities seem endless. It's easy to forget that the key to finding the right car for you is to identify your needs and then try to match them as closely as possible to your wants. For more on this, read "10 Steps to Finding the Right Car for You."
Once you've found a few likely candidates, it's time to go and check them out. But before driving across town, only to find that your dream machine is actually a nightmare, we suggest you give the seller a call to find out more about the car.
What exactly should you ask? Well, we provide a questionnaire here to help you make sure the car meets the criteria stated in the ad, gather more in-depth information on the quality and condition of the car, and get a feel for the owner to decide if you would like to do business with them.
You can print out and use the worksheet below when making phone calls, and take it with you when you go to see the car in person. This will help you separate the cars that have the features you want from the cars that don't, as well as help you to compare the car to the information provided in the ad. It also allows you to quickly see which ones are clean, and which are not worth consideration.
Things such as color, seating materials, transmission type and optional equipment can indicate if the car meets your criteria or not. Title information, mileage, maintenance records, and accident information can help you determine the condition of the car, and whether it is a sound long-term investment. All these considerations contribute to the price of the car, and can aid you in deciding if it is a good buy.
Once you've made up your mind about which car you want to buy, it's time to close the deal. Remember in all of this, however, to have fun. Buying a new car — or even a good used one — is an exciting and rewarding experience!