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Not sure how to buy a used car on a budget? We’ve compiled 7 tips – like setting a budget, knowing when to buy, and getting a vehicle history report – to help.

I Need Help Getting A Car

I Need Help Getting A Car

New car prices have reached all-time highs in recent years amid rising inflation and ongoing supply chain shortages. For many drivers, used cars have become the most affordable option.

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Even so, used cars were not that cheap. J.P. Morgan Research found in the years following the pandemic, used car prices rose 42.5% before peaking.

While new car prices continue to climb above the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), J.P. Morgan expects used car prices to drop 10% to 20% soon.

Used car prices may not reach their pre-pandemic levels, but you can still find a great deal on a used vehicle if you know what you’re doing. We’ve put together seven tips for buying a used car on a budget to help you out.

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The Keys To Success

Buying used is a great way to save money on a car, but you need to do your homework to make sure the vehicle you’re buying is worth the cost. Here’s how to buy a used car on a budget – and make sure the car is in it for the long haul.

This means saving for a down payment and estimating how much you can afford in a monthly car payment. It also means making room in your budget for fuel costs, routine maintenance, and car insurance.

You can use an online calculator to estimate what type of car you can afford based on your income and expenses. But online resources are not perfect. Use them to

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Your decisions, but never spend more than you are comfortable with, even if a calculator says you can afford it.

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Pro Tip: If you choose a shorter loan term (like three years instead of five), you’ll pay less interest over the life of the loan. But this also means that your monthly payments will be higher. Decide if your budget can handle higher payments before choosing a shorter term.

Buying a used car should start online, but not on dealership websites or used car marketplace sites.

Instead, check out sites like Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and Edmunds, which often rank the best used cars under $20,000, $10,000, or even $5,000. These websites can give you an idea of ​​the best cars within your price range.

You can also use data from J.D. studies. Power Vehicle Dependability, which measures the reliability of cars during their first three years. The KBB 5-Year Cost to Own ratings can also give you an idea of ​​models that typically require less car maintenance.

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After you have an idea of ​​the best used car for your budget, you can start looking for used cars from dealers and private sellers.

If you are buying a used car because your old vehicle was in an accident or is too unreliable to drive safely, you don’t have much of a say in buying a used car. You have to buy it

But if time is on your side, wait for one of the best times to buy a used car – when dealers run promotions and are more motivated to make sales.

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You can usually get a better deal when you buy a car privately. Individual sellers don’t have the overhead of a used car dealership and lot, which means their prices are typically lower.

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But there is more risk involved when buying privately. Independent sellers do not have a website of reviews to support them, so you do not know who you are dealing with.

It’s easy to research dealers. You can read reviews before you decide to do business with one, and dealerships shouldn’t intentionally try to dump a bad car on you – they have a reputation to uphold.

Used cars at a dealership may also come with a warranty, and you can test drive multiple vehicles on the lot before making a decision.

A vehicle history report is essential when deciding whether to buy a specific used car. The report includes various details that can help you make a decision, such as:

Car Dealership Assistant

These details can help you determine if the car is worth the cost. If you don’t like something on the report, you can walk away from the sale or negotiate a lower price.

Some dealerships will offer a vehicle history report to potential buyers free of charge. If the dealer doesn’t offer the report or you’re shopping privately, consider spending the extra $25 to $40 to get a report.

Certified pre-owned (CPO) cars are more expensive than other used cars, but they are worth the cost for some drivers.

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Each automaker’s CPO program varies, but typically there are strict requirements for a used car to be certified – generally, it must pass a multi-point inspection and be under a certain mileage limit.

How To Buy A Used Car On A Budget

In addition, buyers usually receive a free vehicle history report, and CPO vehicles come with a limited warranty.

The point of the CPO is to instill more confidence that a used car is in good condition and may have fewer mechanical issues.

But don’t just take it for a spin around the block. Go to a mechanic you trust – whether from experience or from online reviews – and pay to have them inspect it.

While you can do your own inspection, such as looking for rust on the body or hearing strange noises when you drive, a mechanic can spot potential problems you might not know to look for.

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Ask the mechanic to list every repair job the car will need to run smoothly and how much it will cost.

Then you can determine if the car is still worth the price. If not, use the information to negotiate the price or walk away from the sale.

If you can afford to pay for a used car out of pocket, it may be the best option, since you won’t have to worry about monthly payments, interest, or even a hard question on your credit report.

I Need Help Getting A Car

However, if you don’t want to empty your savings or don’t have enough to pay for the car in full, you can shop around to get a good deal on a car loan. Some used car dealers can help you find a lender.

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Generally, a used car with less than 100,000 miles is a good choice, but in recent years, vehicle technology has improved – and cars can last much longer.

Consider more than mileage when buying a used car. Get the vehicle’s history report, take it for a test drive, and pay a mechanic to thoroughly inspect it before you buy.

According to Experian, there is no minimum credit score to buy a car, as it varies by lender. Even drivers with bad credit can qualify for car loans with specific lenders. They will pay much more in interest.

To qualify for a conventional car loan with a lower interest rate, aim for a credit score of 661 or higher.

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If you’re working to improve your credit score, consider waiting until you’re in better shape before buying a car. Doing so can save you a lot of money on interest.

On average, members see a 30 point boost in their credit score after eight months of using the Credit Builder card.

For some buyers, this makes it easy to set a budget – but remember that every situation is unique, and this rule may not always apply.

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Avoid models with visible rust, mismatched exterior paint, flood damage, or very high miles when buying a used car. If the vehicle identification number (VIN) does not match the title, the car is under recall, or the seller is pushy or gives you bad vibes, walk away.

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Buying a used car can be a smart financial decision. Take the time to set a budget, do your research, and thoroughly inspect any vehicle you’re considering – and you’ll know when it goes on sale.

Is it still in the research phase? If record high gas prices turn you off, consider buying a used electric car instead. Read our breakdown of gas and electric cars before you decide.

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Timothy Moore is a personal finance writer and editor. Find his work on Forbes, USA Today, The Penny Hoarder, Insider, SoFi, and more.

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This page is for informational purposes only. does not provide financial, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, financial, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors before entering into any transaction.

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