Before you go shopping around used car dealerships for your ideal car, take the time to be prepared. There are two questions you need to have good answers to, or you may look at your purchase the next day and ask yourself "Why did I do that?" The more comfortable you are with the answers you come up with for these questions, the more likely you'll enjoy your purchase for a long time.
What Features Do You Need in a Car to Buy It?
If the car doesn't have what you really want in it, you'll come down with a serious case of buyer's regret that you won't be able to shake off. Get out the pencil and paper and make a list of everything you want in your next car. Don't skimp on this list. Chrome wheels, sunroof, killer sound system and an interior that looks like new need to go on your list, if that's what you want. Add all of the performance and safety items you want, too. Side airbags and 35 miles per gallon in the city might go on your list. If you're not really sure about a feature, add it to the list. You'll deal with it in the next step.
Now divide all of those items into two different lists—must haves and like to haves. The must-have list are those features that you won't compromise on when looking at a car. If a silver car is a must have, you won't look at black or white cars. If you need a car that gets 35 miles per gallon, tell the salesperson (at dealerships like RK Chevrolet) to not show you anything but that. In fact, you could give this list to the sales person and tell them "That's the car I will buy."
The like-to-have list is more of a tie-breaker. If you have a handful of cars that match your must-have list, you can check them against the like-to-have list to find the ideal match.
Be brutally honest with yourself when making these lists to insure you won't regret your purchase. Don't compromise on your must-haves and don't be sad if you don't get all of the like-to-have options.
How Much Can You Budget For a Car?
If you don't want to wake up with a headache knowing that your car payment is way more than you can afford every month, answer this question honestly. Get together all of the costs of owning a car and determine what the impact is on your budget. This will include:
- Insurance - Talk with your agent and get estimates for the monthly insurance payment on a different car.
- Gasoline costs - Estimate the miles you drive each month and what gas will cost you for a different car.
- Maintenance costs - Estimate the cost of one trip a year into the shop for maintenance, plus oil changes every few months.
Now you can estimate what you'll spend each month just to own the car. With this, determine the monthly payment that you can afford. Stick to this number when talking with the sales people so you don't get in over your head.
Knowing what you want and what you can spend are the two pieces of information you need to keep from regretting a used car purchase. If you did the work and were truthful with your answers, you'll purchase just the right car and enjoy it for many years.