Top Tips for Buying a Used Car

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Searching for a quality used vehicle was once a royal pain, with searching through classified ads, driving around to used car lots, and haggling with private sellers or salesmen all taking up a lot of your precious time. Not anymore. Today, online shopping tools put you in control to get prequalified for a loan, show you the most reliable cars on the market, even get you a guaranteed offer for your trade-in, all from your smartphone or laptop.

Buying Used Made Easy

There are a number of reasons for considering the purchase of a used car. If the used auto you're looking at is three years old, it has already depreciated, plus there may be a difference in taxes, car insurance, and registration fees. Used cars are a great value as today's cars are much more reliable, good for well over 200,000 miles on the odometer. So, buying a used car, truck, or SUV with 60,000 miles on the clock means you still have plenty of life left for all your four-wheeled adventures.
With all that in mind, here's Lithia Motors' Top Tips for Buying a Used Car. Thanks to over 75 years of experience in the auto industry, no matter what your budget or needs, we have the answers to all your personal transportation questions.

Top Tips for Buying a Used Car

When thinking about buying a used car, your first question should be, "How much can I spend?" If you plan on paying cash, you already have a budget in mind. Remember to set aside savings for the title, registration, and for car insurance. If you are thinking about getting a car loan and get pre-approved, you'll be in a better position when you visit your local dealership. With a pre-approved car loan, you can often afford to buy a better, more expensive car.
Your monthly car loan payment needs to fit into your household budget. Figure that you will need to put around ten percent down up front, either in cash or from the value of your trade-in car and try to get a loan that can be paid off in three years. Write down all your monthly auto expenses including your loan payment and how much you'll pay for insurance and gasoline. It is best if the total amount you spend on transportation is no more than 20 percent of your monthly take home pay. To get started, you can value your trade-in right here.
Your next question should be, "What kind of car do I really need?" Buying a red Corvette two-seater won't help your growing family. Really think about how you plan to use the vehicle. If it's a family hauler you'll need room for everyone, even the dog, and plenty of room for storage. That's one of the reasons that SUVs have become so popular. We all want a safe car and as you narrow your search, you can find out which makes and models have the highest safety ratings at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety site.

Make a list of the features that positively have to be included in your new vehicle purchase. The most state-of-the-art safety and driver assist technology is usually rolled out in high-end luxury cars first and then trickles down to standard models. There are great online tools today that show you comparisons between specific cars so you can narrow your focus to just a few vehicles that have everything you are looking for. Here's a great comparison tool by Kelley Blue Book.
Once you narrow your choice of vehicle, you can further refine your search by looking for the specific make, model, and trim level of the vehicle you want at dealerships that are close to you. At Lithia Motors, we have over 30,000 used cars for you to check out right here.
We all want a safe, reliable car. Today there are many online tools to help you check out the top-rated vehicles for safety and reliability. We have a vast assortment of articles right here in our Research Center that will help you decide which vehicle is right for you. J.D. Power also rates used vehicles using real-world maintenance reports. But the best online resource for comparing the safety and reliability of a specific vehicle can be found on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration site.
You will also want to research the cost to own the vehicle you are considering. For instance, some vehicles might seem to be a better buy up front but cost you more over time to keep and maintain. Kelley Blue Book's excellent Five-Year Cost to Own tool will help you determine your future car's cost of ownership right here.
You'll find many thousands of quality used cars and certified pre-owned vehicles here on We also provide buying, selling, and trading through Driveway, our one-stop online source of all things with wheels. We'll even pick up your trade-in and deliver you new car right to your… driveway. See what we did there? Like to see, touch and drive the cars your considering? Then visit the Lithia Motors dealer near you. Find it here.
Once you are set on the make, model and trim level of a car that works for you, check the average price based on mileage and specific options right down to the color you want. Read the descriptions for the vehicle's condition. You want to find cars with ratings of "clean," "excellent," or "outstanding." If you choose to trade- in your present car through Driveway, we'll give you an instant cash offer that's good for seven days so you can think over your options.
When you purchase a used car through Lithia Motors, we'll provide you with a free Vehicle History Report. You'll learn all about your new vehicle including if it has ever been in a serious accident, fire or flood. You'll find out how many people have owned the car, if the title is free and clear, and how well it has been maintained including all service records and even where the work was done.
If you decide to run a vehicle report on several cars before considering a purchase, you can pay for detailed reports through companies such as Carfax or AutoCheck. All you will need is each car's Vehicle's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
When you are ready to test drive a car, let the dealership know you are coming so they can have the car ready for you. Walk around the vehicle and check for any dents, dings or imperfections. Start the car and listen to the engine. Report any strange noises to the salesperson. Make sure all the warning lights go off including the Check Engine, Oil Pressure, Brakes, and Airbags. Drive the car with the radio off so you can listen for any usual sounds or vibrations coming from the brakes, suspension, or from under the hood.
If possible, drive on both surface streets and on the highway to see how it handles, accelerates, and brakes under different conditions. Even try it over rough pavement. Make sure the car fits you ergonomically. Are all the controls within easy reach? Can you see well out of the vehicle? Are there any blind spots? Are you comfortable behind the wheel?
After the test drive, get into the back seat and see if there is plenty of room for passengers. Check the headroom and legroom. Is there plenty of cargo room in the back or in the trunk? Lastly, check the safety and driver assist features. Play with the stereo and make sure your phone connects to Bluetooth.

Let Lithia Help
If you have come this far, you are probably ready to buy your new car. No matter what your personal transportation needs might be, Lithia Motors is here to help. Remember to take the time to really understand the sales contract. We're here to make the buying process easy for you. Ask about such details as the breakdown of charges for taxes, fees, and vehicle registration. Once you have signed the paperwork and accepted the keys to your new car, don't forget to call your car insurance agent and give them the year, make, model, and VIN number of your new ride so you are fully covered.
Before you leave the dealership, let's take a photo of you with your new car. We hope you enjoy many happy miles together!