Used Car Buying Guide – Valley Auto Loans

Used Car Buying Guide

How to Buy A Used Car Without Regret

After You Read Through This “Used Car Buyers Guide” You can shop for that used car with confidence and negotiate like a pro with help from Valley Auto Loans.

After learning the tricks of the trade, you will find a handy 21 point review at the end of this page for a vehicle purchase, refinance or bad credit car lease.

It is a checklist of what you have learned that you can print off or keep it with you on your smartphone when you go used car shopping.

That way you will not miss a trick, and hopefully, you will be able to spot a lemon or prevent a used car dealer from taking advantage of you, and your lack of car buying knowledge.

You can become filled with apprehension and mistrust when you start thinking about buying a used car.

The image of a slick used car salesperson tricking an unsuspecting buyer into buying a used car with mechanical issues is prevalent in our society.

Many people are unsure of how to buy a used car from a dealer or private party.

How to know if it is a good deal, or either you getting ripped off? You may not even know what kind of vehicle you want or about applying for online auto financing.

Let us explain some used car buying tips, the benefits of buying a used car and show you how to make a wise choice.

The process of buying a used car can be so nerve-wracking because it is rarely straightforward.

Is it better to buy an older car with lower mileage or a newer car with more mileage? Is it worth driving 50 miles out of your way to buy a similar car that’s $1,000 cheaper?

There are so many questions that don’t have black or white answers. We hope to relieve your worry about how to buy a used car and how to get the best deals on the best used cars.

Finding the right used car comes down to following five easy steps.

  1. Determine your budget and down payment
  2. Research the car of your choice
  3. Find a car and check it over
  4. Negotiate the correct price
  5. Get the most for your trade

Some people do not realize that buying a used car can give them more for their dollar compared to a brand new car. Fortunately, the world is not full of people trying to rip you off.

Sure, there are a few bad guys out there, you are dealing with the world that is highly dependent upon sales and commissions.

If you have the right tips for buying a used car, you can learn how to avoid them and the wrong kind of car dealerships.

Our “Used Car Buying Guide” will help you through the entire process of buying a used car, from start to finish. Once you have read through this buyers guide, you will learn how to buy a used car from a dealer without being taken advantage of.

Our hope is to improve your skills and knowledge of dealer fees and how to haggle for the best prices on used cars.

We will even supply you with a printable review checklist for use when buying a used car. A quick reference PDF of tips on buying a used car to take with you on your mobile device when you go shopping. We also can show you five easy steps to a better car loan with a low APR.

Determining a Used Car Budget

buying a used carbuying a used carBefore you start shopping for your used car, you need to think about how much you can realistically afford to pay for a used car.

This will help the search be a lot more realistic and help you narrow your search. With the used car market, it is possible to get a car at a variety of price points.

You should not feel that you need to purchase a car that’s more than you can afford.

Two important tips for buying a used car from a dealer you have considered.

First, the amount you can pay as a down payment, including your trade. You are going to want to know how to negotiate car prices for your used car trade-in value without getting ripped off.

The second is the amount you can afford to pay on a monthly basis. Are you on a regular budget that will allow you to make the car payments early?

If you are going to struggle to make the car payments for your next car, we can show you how to build a simple budget that will give you an extra “Free check.”

If you do not use a simple budget tool for paying your bills each month, now is a good time to start. Many times people with poor credit scores will pick out a car and hope for the best when it comes to getting financed.

Then they struggle with their finances until the loan is paid off several years later.

Down Payment

  • Down Payment – The down payment is the amount you put toward the cost of the car when you first make the purchase. Standard advice has said that it is best to put down at least 20 percent of the expense of the car. The experts at, however, say that the average down payment for a car is more like 12 percent.
  • The shift in thinking comes from lower interest rates on a car purchase. This makes a high down payment less of an incentive. The fact that many Americans simply don’t have that much money in liquid assets tends to show up in fewer down payments.

how to buy a used carhow to buy a used carRealistically, try to put down as much money as you can reasonably afford, and the used car will cost you less money overall.

Sometimes, people with high credit scores can even qualify for loans without making a down payment, but this is not recommended.

Also, if you have another car that you are planning to trade in, the value of that used car can count toward the down payment. Your down payment does not have to be all your cash.

Remember, though, that when you finally sign all of the paperwork, you will also have to pay fees like taxes and registration fees. You need to have enough money to cover those costs as well.

Knowing how to buy a used car from a dealer includes knowing what the dealer is charging you for. Carefully look over all the charges on the sales invoice and question any charges that you did not know about or anything that the dealer did not explain.

Don’t pay for anything services that the dealer should have provided at no charge.

Monthly Payment

  • Monthly Payment – when you are financing a used car, the monthly payment can be a deciding factor. Experts disagree on just how much is too much for a car payment to be. For example, at, they suggest that the car payment should be no more than 20 percent of your take-home pay. In this case, if you bring home $3,000 a month, the maximum amount you should pay would be $600.

At however, the experts take a more balanced approach, suggesting that you also factor in any other debt payments you have.

They suggest that the total amount you pay for your debt should be less than 36 percent of your gross income (not take-home pay). This makes the calculation a bit more complicated, but here’s an example.buying used carsbuying used cars

  1. Start with a gross salary of $45,000 per year.
  2. Calculate 36 percent of that, and you will get a recommended total yearly debt payment of $16,200, which works out to $1350 per month.
  3. Total all of your monthly payments. For example, say you have a rent payment of $500, $150 in student loans, $200 for all of your utilities, and a $50 minimum credit card payment. This totals $900.
  4. Subtract that figure from the recommended maximum debt amount to get the amount you can presumably afford as a monthly payment. In our example, you could swing $450.

Of course, facts and figures do not always tell the truth. If you budget your money, you probably have an idea of how much you can likely afford. This will help narrow your search for a used car in your price range.

A longer loan term does not make sense even if it has lower payments because you are paying interest for a longer time and paying more over an 84-month auto loan.

Once you have a monthly figure in your head, you can play around with our auto loan payment calculator to see how cars in different price ranges, with loans at various interest rates can work for a monthly payment.

You can also submit a no-obligation application with Valley Auto Loans to get more accurate figures of how much money we’ll approve for your car loan.

Used Car Loans for Private Sale or Dealers

Private used car purchase


Purchasing a used car from a private seller should be as easy as buying from a used car dealer and in many ways it is.

The great benefit from buying from a private seller is that they are interested in selling only that car.

This can be a huge benefit for you if you want that exact car model.

Many times they are willing to negotiate on your terms because they just want to sell the vehicle at a fair price, compared to a used car purchase from a car dealer who is out to make a huge profit on every car that is sold.

Even with buying from a private seller, you should get your loan pre-approved before you settle on a price to make price negotiations and the financing go easier for both parties involved.

Used car dealer purchase


The same advice applies if you are applying for an auto loan for a car from a used car dealers lot.

Many dealers supply car loans online that are structured to charge high interest rates to those with average to poor credit. It is better to get pre-approved online before you shop at car dealers so you can select the payments and loan terms you will be happy with.

Valley Auto Loans has a New & Used car loans application online to get pre-approved today.

With either of these types of loans, you can apply online to get pre-approved for your loan. By filling out a refinance application for private sales, the refinance application sends your loan request to the lenders who will give you the best rates for buying from private sellers.

That way you know the exact amount you can bargain with.

Create Your Shopping Checklist

tips for buying a used cartips for buying a used car

Choosing a Car

You can shop around for your car before you even apply for your loan. Locate the car you want, and then request a loan online.

If you do not already have a clear idea of what type of used car you want, you need to start narrowing down your choices.

Make a list of your “needs” and “wants” when it comes to a car.

When you are buying a used car, you may not be able to get everything exactly the way you want it, but there’s probably a few things that are non-negotiable.

Many times it is easier to find exactly what you want on a used car than new.

This is because of a larger market for used cars for sale than years past. Try to shop at different dealers and don’t be quick to buy from the first used car dealer you visit. Some of the questions you should ask yourself are:

Choose Seating capacity

How many people will need to fit in the car? If you have four kids, you are probably going to need a minivan. However, if this is a commuter car, and you will be the only one riding, you might be able to consider something smaller.

Plan Long-term

It can be smart to think long-term, too.

For example, if you plan to have a baby soon, the baby will technically fit into a smaller car, but it will be a lot easier to accommodate him in a 4-door.

Fuel Economy

How important is fuel economy?

No one wants to spend more on gas than he or she has to. If you have an hour-long commute to work each day, it becomes a lot more important to purchase a car that’s good on gas.

You might even consider a hybrid car if you are always driving long distances.

If you commute a considerable amount, you will probably recover your initial investment in no time. If you cannot afford filling up your car to full, then you find yourself at the gas station often.

Consider Your Driving Conditions

Will I be driving in extreme conditions? If you live in an area that gets a significant amount of ice and snow, then it could be wise to get a car that has All Wheel Drive.

That would not be so important in Southern California.

Do you Need Cargo Space?

What type of cargo do I need? Everyone has different needs when it comes to cargo space. If you are using the car for construction jobs, you will need extra space for tools and materials.

Mom might need storage space for strollers and bikes.

Do You Need Special Features?

What other features do you want? Think about all the ways you plan to use the new-to-you car. Will you need a tow hitch for a trailer? Would you prefer something that has a built-in GPS?

Will you need to get children in and out of their car seats easily? What types of safety features do you need? All of these will play a role in your decision.

From this list of needs and wants, you’ll probably be able to narrow choices down to what type of car you need, even if you do not have a particular brand in mind.

Pick a Target Price for Buying a Used Car

For first-time car buyers, this is not always easy as most consumers do not know what to use as a target price.

Use your checklist to make a list of potential used cars, and then hit the Internet. Read reviews of the cars on your list. and – the website of Kelly Blue Book – are fantastic unbiased sources for car reviews. You can use our auto loan calculator to convert your car price into monthly payments. This will allow you to see how it fits your target budget.
used car buying guideused car buying guideUnless you have an unlimited budget, though, your search will not end there. You also need to look at the typical asking price for those types of used cars, and the kind of condition you can expect when it comes to looking for the car that you want within your budget.

For example, if you are looking at minivans and your budget is $15,000, you will probably have a hard time finding a Toyota Sienna in your price range.

The car online that you do find in that price range may be older or have unusually high mileage.

When you see this, you might start to think about a different model, which will likely be less expensive while still offering you most of the features you want. Don’t be afraid of looking at rental car sales.

These cars are well maintained and have mostly highway miles on them.

The maintenance is usually kept up with very well, and they are sold at a very competitive price. Many rental cars are sold when they are three to five years old with low miles.

After doing this, you may not have found the exact car for you, but you will at least have a better idea of what you are looking for.

When you are buying a used car, you cannot necessarily walk into a dealership and pick out everything that you want in a car. You may have to wait a while and shop around at a few different places.

Doing a daily search for cars can help you find your dream car as soon as it goes up for sale.

Seek Out Used Cars in Your Area

You will then want to find used cars in your area. There are several ways that you can do this.

how to buy used carhow to buy used carThe first is to use an aggregator site like or These sites are ideal when you care more about the type of car and its price than you do about anything else.

They will search through all of the options in your area regardless of the dealership. The downside to this type of site is that they will also show you results from dealerships that do have that slick salesperson you were trying to avoid.

If you are going to buy a used car from a dealer’s lot you need to proceed with caution.

Check Dealer Websites

Another way to search is by going to the individual sites of dealerships that you are particularly interested in. This might be a dealership you drive by or one that a friend recommended because she had a great experience.

Buying a used car from a dealer is ideal when you are relatively firm on car price, but could be somewhat flexible about the details.

Remember that when it comes to used cars at dealerships, you can find a variety of makes and models of cars, even if it is not the type of car that the dealership is known for.

For example, at the Ford dealership, they will take in lots of cars as trade-ins and re-sell the ones that are in good condition. On their used lot, you will find a variety of brands. Some used car dealers will even help you locate the vehicle you are looking for at local auto auctions.

Then they will sell it to you after they process it.

Private Owners & Dealers

You could use a site like Craigslist to find your car. This gives you access to not only dealerships but to private owners looking to sell their cars.

Sometimes, you can get a better deal on a used car from a private owner, but it can be harder to finance older types of cars.

Not all lenders will finance a car when it comes from a private seller. Fortunately, at Valley Auto Loan, we do finance private party sales.

You just need to fill out the refinance application when you submit your loan application.

Shop Around For That Used Car

how to buy a used car from a dealerhow to buy a used car from a dealerOne of the biggest tips on buying a used car is shop around. You will be amazed at the deals you can find. Consider where you might feel most comfortable buying a car.

Buying a used car from a private seller could be as easy as handing over a check.

When you go to a large dealership, there may be additional maintenance, services, warranties and guarantees that you will not get from someone just looking to sell their car.

It is all about what’s most important to you. Just don’t be tricked into paying for any services that they should provide in the sale. Don’t fall for the buy here pay here dealers.

Instead of providing financing through a bank or similar, the dealership directly finances the loan. This is known as a tote the note finance agreement.

Check Out the Cars’ Historyused car buying tipsused car buying tips

Whether you are buying from a dealer or an individual, you want to know about the history of the car. This can help you decide whether the car is a quality car or whether it might have some problems.

AutoCheck and Carfax are probably the two most popular places to get a vehicle history report. Both services give you the option of ordering one report for a low fee or multiple reports for a higher fee.

If you are truly shopping around and have a feeling that you will look at many cars before you find the car that’s right for you, consider purchasing their unlimited packages.

Though they come with the highest price, you will be able to order as many reports as you would like within the given time frame.

To get the report, you are going to need the vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number, commonly called the VIN. Many websites will show the VIN on the site to make the research easier for you.

If you are walking around the car lot checking out your options, you can usually find the VIN on the dashboard by looking through the windshield on the driver’s side.

If someone refuses to give you the VIN, there’s probably something he or she is hiding, and it is smart to give up on that car.

The car’s credit history report will show you how many owners the car has had and how often it has been brought into the shop. It should say whether the car’s had regular maintenance or whether it has been in an accident.

In extreme cases, it will show that the car labeled as “totaled,” and it is likely that the person is trying to sell you a bad car.

Ideally, you want a car that has not been in any major accidents. If you see reports of regular maintenance, it is likely that the owner took good care of the car, and you can feel more confident that it is in good shape.

Some people prefer a car that’s only had one previous owner though this is not always a sign that the car was well taken care of.

Sometimes, that single owner was a car rental company, and the car has been driven by hundreds of people.

Once you’ve found a car that has a history report that you are comfortable with, you are ready to move on with the process.

Tips for Inspecting a Used Car

Start with a visual inspection

This car represents a very significant purchase for you, and you have the right to give it a thorough inspection before you sign the check.

Some people feel a bit awkward checking out every nook and cranny, but you do not want to be disappointed after the purchase.

For example, new floor mats could be covering up an ugly stain or paint could be covering up rust areas.

tips on buying a used cartips on buying a used carStart with a visual inspection of the car, walking all the way around it. Pay attention to large dents or pieces not seeming to line up correctly.

This could show that the car was in an accident. Check out the tires. They should be wearing evenly.

If you notice that one side is more worn than another, it could be due to a problem with the car’s alignment.

Inspect The Interior Of The Car

Inside the car, look for cracks in the plastic of the dashboard or the handles.

Check for tears or stains in the fabric. Make sure that all of the windows roll up and down easily. Check the heat, air conditioning, radio and any other features the car might have such as power locks and windows.

Does the car smell like mold or like it has a water leak?

If it does, you will want to inspect under the carpets for any traces of water or rust on the floor or under the seat frames.

Under The Hood

Even if you do not know a lot about how cars work, it is a good idea to check under the hood of the car. Ideally, the engine should be fairly clean-looking, even though the car is used.

If you feel comfortable, you can check the fluid levels in the car. If the fluids are dirty when they should not be, or not at the proper levels, you might assume that the owner has not taken very good care of the car.

This is a good time to ask about maintenance records usually listed in the owners manual.

Small Problems or a Big Price Tag?

When you are buying a used car, it is not uncommon to find a few little problems here and there. Small things like a nick in the paint from a wayward grocery cart or a slight stain on the seat are probably not deal-breakers

. What you are looking for are signs of significant problems that the owner is not telling you about.

Warranty or As-Is?

One final thing that’s important to understand is whether the car is being sold “as-is” or if it comes with a warranty. Cars from private sellers are almost always as-is, which means that the owner makes no guarantee about the condition of the car.

Once you purchase the car, any problems you discover are yours to deal with.

Cars that come from dealers will most likely have a limited warranty. The warranty is likely to be at least 30 days, but many dealerships extend that warranty to three or six months to make the buyer feel more confident.

Look for the details about this in the “Buyer’s Guide,” which the Federal Trade Commission requires all dealers to place in the car’s window.

This guide will tell you how long the warranty lasts and what will happen should there be a problem with the car.

This guide is what the dealer must stick to, and if there are any changes made at the deal table, it is important that those changes be updated in the Buyer’s Guide as well.

Taking the Car for a Test Drive

When you think you’ve found the car for you, it is time to take it out on a test drive.

Most places will make a copy of your driver’s license before you do so.

Many locations will also allow you to choose whether you want to take it for a spin on your own or with the salesperson or owner.

Test Drive Under The Same Conditions

buying a used car from a dealerbuying a used car from a dealerIdeally, the car should start up smoothly when you turn the key. A car that hasn’t been used for a long time may show a small puff of white smoke, but that is not a cause for concern.

Even if you do not know a lot about cars, you should try to get a sense of how the car feels and sounds when you drive it. When you start it up, does the engine seem to grind or take a long time to turn on?

When it is sitting there in park, does it idle quietly, or is there a lot of rattling? A noisy engine could be a sign that there’s a problem with the car, but it could also just be that the car’s design does not insulate against outside sound well enough.

Take the time to drive the vehicle under the same conditions in which you would usually drive the car. You want to drive it on neighborhood streets, making both left and right-hand turns.

You should also take it on the highways, making sure to drive it up to 65 miles per hour.

If you live in an area that has mountains or is particularly hilly, take it to a similar area to see how well the car handles those hills.

Let the dealer or owner know your plans if you think it will take a bit longer than the typical test drive.

Don’t Get Distracted

When the car accelerates, try to get a sense of how it feels when it changes gears. A weird grinding noise can mean there’s a problem.

You can also check the wheel alignment by seeing if the car goes in a straight line when you let go of the steering wheel while you are driving on the highway.

Ideally, the car will continue to drive in a straight line and won’t veer to the left or right. If it does stray, that could be a sign of a problem with tires or alignment.

The car should not pull to one side when you apply the brakes, or it may need new brake pads.

Safety Is Important

Make a note of any strange blind spots. While every car is slightly different, you might find the vehicle’s side-view mirrors particularly difficult to use or the back windshield to be too small.

Though it might not be a deal-breaker for you, some people could find those little things too distracting in a car they will be driving on a regular basis.

Use A Mechanic

Whether you like the car, or you think there might be a problem, it is always a smart idea to take a used car to a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection, before you make the deal.

It is entirely within your right to do this, and you should use a mechanic you already know and trust, not one that’s recommended by the seller. The inspection should cost around $150, but it is well worth the charge.

The mechanic will be able to tell you about any current problems with the car.

Also, he will tell you if there are issues that may come up in the near future, such as a belt that’s worn down and bound to snap soon.

Knowing ahead of time that the transmission might be worthless in under a year can make a great car seem a lot less attractive.

Are You Comfortable?

Before leaving the car after a test drive, ask yourself if you would be comfortable riding in these seats for a long trip? Many sports car seats are firm and don’t give much.

They can be comfortable for twenty minutes or so but what about two or three hours or more? Is the layout of the rear seats and passenger room comfortable also?

Many cars today have folding rear seats. Try these seats also to see if they are as comfortable as the ones in the front.

As a parent I would not want to force my children or guests to ride in a seat I would not ride in myself.

Negotiate the Price of a Used Car from a Dealer

Negotiating the price of the car is probably the part of the car buying process that people find most difficult.

It is where you worry that the salesperson is going to pull a fast one on you and make you pay a lot more than you had originally planned.

If you go in armed with the knowledge of buying used cars, you’ll feel a lot more confident throughout the negotiations.

Know The Market Value

First of all, you have probably already done your research on what the price of the car should be, but it does not hurt to give things one more look before you hit the negotiating table.

For example, you could check out the True Market Value (TMV) tool at to see what real people in your area have paid for similar cars.

Go into the negotiations with a price that’s low, but still within a reasonable range. If you start out offering $8,000 for a car the dealer’s listed at $15,000, they might laugh you right out of the office.

However, if you know that most people are spending about $14,000 for comparable cars, you might be able to start with a price of $13,000 or $13,500.

You should also have a maximum amount you are willing to pay for in your head, and if the seller does not come to at least that price, it is time to walk away.

Plan Time To Haggle

Expect the negotiations to take about an hour if you are at a dealership, and less time if you are dealing with a private seller.

Before you try to settle the deal, you want to make sure that you are well-fed and feeling comfortable. If you have a bit of a headache or a rumbling tummy, it will be all too easy just to agree to the seller’s demands to get out of there quickly.

The seller is unlikely to take your first offer, and there may be a bit of haggling involved. Hopefully, you will be able to agree on a price that’s favorable to you.

If you are at a dealership, the seller will try to tack on many extras, such as an extended warranty, a protective coating on the underside of the car or anti-theft devices.

These add to the cost of the car, but they can also give you greater peace of mind, so try to think ahead of time about whether you are interested in these things.

Be Prepared For Dealer Tricks

One thing you need to watch out for is for the seller to attempt to change the terms of your loan to make a higher price more affordable.

For example, if you add a year to the loan term, the monthly price will drop. If the seller knows what your target “monthly payment” is, he can undoubtedly try to add many extras and make it fit into your desired payment by lengthening the loan.

This may be affordable, but the additional time means that you will be paying more in the long run.

No matter how much you like the car, always remember that you can walk away from the deal at any time before the papers are signed. This is your biggest negotiation tool.

The seller wants you to buy because they want the money.

If you do not buy this car, there will be other cars that are just as good in your future. The minute you are desperate to have this particular car is the moment you lose your power.

Private Seller Caution

When you are dealing with a private party sale, you need to make sure the seller has the title and can sign it over to you before money changes hands.

It is also smart to pay with a cashier’s check from the bank since you will then have a receipt of the payment you made.

Also, the seller will not have to worry that you do not have enough money in the account, and he will have no excuse, not to sign it over to you.

Remember, no matter where you purchase your car, you need to call your car insurance company to add this car to the policy before you drive it away.

Getting the Most for Your Trade-In

Many people have a car that they are planning to get rid of when they get the new car. Moreover, most people want to use some of the money from that car toward the down payment on the new car.

To get this money, consumers have two choices – bringing the car to the dealer or selling the car on their own.

Either way, it is smart to clean the car up to give it a little curb appeal. If possible, take it to a professional car washing place to have the job done and pay a bit extra for the wax.

Some places will even clean the interior. You do not have to spend the money on this, however. You can clean things on your own. Imagine that you are the potential buyer, and look at your car with a critical eye.

Try to fix any issues that you’d not like if you were the buyer.

If you are planning on using the car as a trade-in, check the “trade-in value” through a site like You never want to accept immediately the value the dealer gives you for your trade.

The Kelly Blue Book is a well-known authority on the value of cars, and a dealership is likely to guess that you know what KBB says the trade-in value is.

Trading your vehicle in at the dealership is probably the easiest way to get rid of your car and to get some money for it.

Remember that just like you have a clear idea in your head of what you want to pay for the car; the dealer has an idea of how much money he intends to get for the car.

If he offers you a significant amount of money for your trade-in, you are likely to see that there’s a slightly higher price on the car.

He has to make up for that money somehow.

When it comes to selling your car on your own, you can look at the suggested private party value through the Kelly Blue Book. However, know that it may not be close to the price you can get.

To get a better idea of how much you are likely to get, look at Craigslist or other such markets in your area.

This will give you a better feel for the local market.

Just as you do when buying a car, you need to set limits for yourself. Know the lowest price you are willing to accept. Don’t let anyone talk you down from this price.

Selling your car on your own can get you more money for the car, but it can also take time. This may not be ideal if you are looking to use the money earned from the car towards the down payment.

However, if you can afford your new car without factoring in the price you can fetch for your old car, it can be the best deal for you.

Watching Out for Hidden Fees and Charges

When you buy a used car from a dealer, you are more likely to incur extra fees that you were not planning on. Carefully review the contract before you sign.

It should detail all of the charges you are facing, including charges for a smog test or registration. Make sure that the dealer has not slipped something in that you were not planning on paying.

Buying A Used Car Without The Fees

Ask About All Charges

For example, the dealer might try to charge you more than the state limit for the inspection fee, or he might attempt to add an extra warranty that you said you did not want. Most places will charge a “documentation fee,” but only some states set limits on how much this fee can be.

Without a limit, the company might charge as much as $900, which is a pretty significant unexpected cost.

If there are any charges on your invoice that you do not understand, speak up and ask. If the price seems unreasonable, ask the company to justify that fee, and be willing to end the deal if they refuse.

Out The Door Price

One of the best ways to avoid surprise charges, according to is to ask for the “out-the-door” price rather than just the price of the car.

The out-the-door price is the full price that you will pay for the car upon signing all the paperwork. It will include any special licensing fees and other charges that the dealer incorporates into the sale.

Finance Charges

You might also watch out for unexpected financing costs. This can be hard to spot because they get wrapped into the overall car loan, and you are only paying a few extra dollars each month.

However, they certainly add up, and you need to ask about them.

Get Your Financing Before You Shop

A car dealer can spot first-time car buyers so you can usually get the best deal if you go to the dealership with financing already secured from Valley Auto Loan.

Many of our lenders understand the risk involved with the loan and can offer lower interest rates to our buyers. At that point, you are only negotiating on the price of the car.

Sometimes, a dealer will try to push a loan from a particular bank because he gets a bonus when the customer uses that bank. Alternatively, they will charge you more for that car but explain that they can get you low payments.

Either way, you are paying more than you should. That does not make it the best deal for you.

Make sure the dealer is going to supply you with two sets of keys for the car. Many cars today have electronic keys that have special chips incorporated in them.

They are very expensive to replace and get programmed. Don’t let the dealer tell you that you can just get a copy made at a hardware store. If it is that, easy let him do it for you.

Putting Used Car Buying Tips All Together

Buying a car is a big decision, and it is not something that you should just jump into without careful consideration.

No matter how badly you need a new car or how appealing that zero down car financing sale is. In some cases, it can take months of research before finding the perfect car for you.

We have put together this 21 point used car buying guide review to have with you when you go to the dealer’s lot. You can print it off or have it on your mobile device to refer to while you inspect your car choice.

This is a review list of everything you just learned about buying a good used car.

Remember, the best way to get financing for your used car is to get your loan before you negotiate with the dealer.

This will prevent the dealer from adding hidden fees to your loan or up selling the car.21 Point Review to the “Used Car Buying Guide”

  1. What is the amount you can pay for a down payment?
  2. Is your trade-in clean and do you know what its trade-in value is? What is the lowest you will take for it?
  3. According to the formula given, what is the monthly amount you can afford for a car payment?
  4. Does this dealer have your first and second choice of vehicles on your shopping list?
  5. Do you know what the fair market value is on the vehicles you have chosen?

Can you answer “Yes” to all these questions?

  1. Will all your passengers fit comfortably?
  2. Does this car have good fuel economy?
  3. Does this car meet my everyday driving conditions?
  4. Will it hold all the cargo I need to carry?
  5. Does it have the optional features I want that are most important?
  6. Did the history of the car searched by the vin# show any problems or accidents?
  7. Does the car have any physical damage to the body or paint?
  8. If it has damage, is the dealer willing to reduce the selling price to accommodate for the repair?
  9. Are the tires in good shape? Are they worn unevenly? Will the dealer replace the tires or lower the sale price so you can replace the tires or get an alignment?
  10. Do the power windows, Power locks and other electric options work correctly?
  11. Does the A/C blow cold at idle? Does the car smell musty like it has a water leak?
  12. Is the engine compartment clean? Are there any traces of oil leaking or dripping from the lower frame at the engine or transmission?
  13. Are the engine fluids full and at the proper marks?
  14. If the car is less than three years old, what factory warranties remain?
  15. Does the car start and run smooth, shift without clunking or jerking in gear and it drive in a straight line?
  16. Are there any vibrations or rattles at high speeds?
  17. Do the brakes squeal, scrape or grind? Does it stop quickly?
  18. Will the dealer let you have the car checked by your mechanic?
  19. During the financing do not let the dealer change the loan term months to make his higher price more affordable. Allow him to accept less if the price is too high.
  20. Make sure the dealer has clear title before exchanging money and have the dealer sign it over to you on the spot. Get both sets of keys from the dealer before you leave.
  21. Don’t accept any hidden fees you do not understand. Make the dealer explain all fees and don’t pay for something you feel the dealer is responsible for clean up and prep. or any maintenance the car requires.

Final Thoughts

Thinking of shopping for a new or used car? 

The most important thing is to decide your budget and stick to it.

Remember that the amount the bank will approve you for isn’t necessarily going to be an amount that’s truly affordable to you. You need to be honest about your finances and what you can afford.

Pick a car that fits your needs and your budget, and know that you can always find a different car if the first deal does not work out.

Valley Auto Loans has been known for years as the premier place to find an auto loan.

However, don’t forget to check out the resource page for other helpful tips and information on a broad range of subjects that car owners have questions about.

There are car shopping tools and “How-To” on many things a driver needs to know, like plugging a tire, closing a broken driver door window or what to do if you have a dead battery or getting better gas mileage.

We can even show you the easiest way to create a simple budget.

Using all of the knowledge you have, go confidently into negotiations. Stand your ground and be willing to walk away if you are not getting what you want.

When you do all of this, you should be very excited when buying a used car. Congratulations on your new purchase!

Related Reading:

  • Veteran Car Loans
  • Should You Buy Your College Student a Car?
  • How To Refinance a Car Loan with Bad Credit
  • Straw Purchase Car Loan Defined

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