The decision boils down to whether you need a used car or a new car. A new car might be expensive, but it will save you from headaches later on. But if you really need transportation and you are tight on the budget, then a used car is a good choice to start with.
By purchasing a used car, you can save a lot of money, in terms of cash out. A new car depreciates quickly in the first few years and after 3 years, it is worth only about half of the original price. When purchasing a new car you basically are paying for its fresh "new" aroma and warranty. Yet buying a new car does not always mean you get something perfect. A new car can stll come with problems associated with poor design or manufacturing defects that may have been already repaired during the warranty coverage period if it's a used car. The same is true for all kinds of recalls and service campaigns. Another advantage of buying a used car is that you could buy a loaded model with all the bells and whistles that you might not be able to afford had you bought a new car.
However, buying a used car is still a bit of a gamble - there is no guarantee that the car is accident-free, has real mileage, and was properly maintained. There may be some hidden problems like a worn out automatic transmission, or engine problems that may not have been obvious when you test-drove the car. Here are some tips to guide you on buying that used car.
Do your homework. Read reviews, consumer reports, ask colleagues and friends, compare options, gather gas consumption data on the make and model you're interested in, and research for possible problems. Examine reliability ratings. Try to determine maintenance costs and upkeep. Your goal should be to narrow your search to one or two models, because if you just enter a dealership without knowing what you want, chances are more likely than not that you won't be happy with your purchase. Later you may find out that it's simply not exactly what you wanted or what you can afford.
Another purpose of narrowing down your choice down to only one or two models is so it will be much easier for you to compare their conditions and pick the better one. Recognizing a transmission problem during your test drive would be easier to do if you were to try a few vehicles of the same model instead of becoming confused by testing out different models.
Check the car's history records. This will help you to eliminate half of the vehicles from your list with potential problems. Vehicles that have been flooded or restored after serious accidents, those with rolled back odometers, heavily abused vehicles (such as former rentals), those with outstanding liens, or other such problems can be eliminated from your list after simply checking the history record of the vehicle. In fact, it is not even a good idea to look into a car until you check its history!
Set a budget. Set yourself a firm limit of how much money you want to spend and can afford to pay for a car. The process of buying a used car can be time-consuming and stressful and it might be difficult to resist the urge to buy more expensive vehicle, especially when a higher total price is hidden under "low" monthly payments.
Often dealers will try to push you into buying a more expensive vehicle to increase their commissions. In fact, this is a very common situation: people rush into buying a car or a truck only to realize later that they cannot afford paying for it. Thousands of people are searching the Internet for an answer to "How to get out of a car deal?" You want to buy something that you can afford, something that will not put excessive financial strain on your family budget, so you need to set yourself a firm limit.
Set a budget for repairs and maintenance. You should allocate 10 to 20% of your budget do repairs and maintenance after you have purchased a used car. You should have all belts and fluids replaced. It would also be a good idea to replace the suspension and underchassis parts as soon as you can. These would ensure safety, once you are already driving the vehicle.
Buying a used car can be a rewarding experience if you know what you want, and if you get a good car that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.