Used Car Buying Guide: Negotiating a Fair Price

shutterstock_114473200We get it: when you’re talking about giving someone else a few thousand dollars, you can get nervous. Don’t panic, though.

Negotiating the price on a used car does not have to be as overwhelming as it seems. In fact, if you are prepared, have a fair price in mind and are willing to walk away if the deal goes awry, the overall experience can actually be quite rewarding.

There are, however, a few steps you will need to follow to ensure that you get the car you want at a price that is fair. As you prepare for your trip to the dealership, use this guide to help you negotiate a lower price.

Step One: Establish A Starting Price For The Used Car

The first step in any successful negotiation is to establish a starting point. But keep in mind that the starting point should never be sticker price. To get the lowest price on a used car, you cannot negotiate down from a certain point. Instead, you should start at price that is slightly lower than the current market value and work your way up if necessary.

A good source to use when establishing market value is Kelley Blue Book.  Whether you are buying from a dealer, a private seller, or trading in, Kelley Blue Book can offer you some idea of how much a car is potentially worth.

Step Two: Research Vehicle History

Because you are buying used, the car’s history may negatively impact its value. For instance, if the car you are thinking about buying has previously been in an accident, it should be priced lower than current market value. If not, you need to negotiate accordingly.

At UsedCars.com, we have partnered with CarFax to help you receive all the detailed information about a car’s vehicle history. This lets you check to see if a vehicle is a lemon, verify the odometer, and identify any past accident damage or major mechanical flaws.

Step Three: Be Willing To Walk Away

By doing your research, you should have a good understanding of what the car is worth. So don’t second-guess yourself, even when the dealer starts rattling of list special offers and missed opportunities.

If the dealer is unwilling to match your price, you have to be willing to walk away. While this can be hard to do, especially if you have fallen in love with a certain car, if you can convince the dealer that they are going to miss out on a sale, they will become ready to negotiate.

Keep in mind that with any good negotiation, there is give and take on both sides. So while you never should accept a deal you are not comfortable with, you need to keep an open mind and be willing to accept a price that is fair to both sides.

Best used cars priced under $5,000

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Shopping for a used car priced for under $5,000? Well then, here’s some good news for you: A limited bank account doesn’t mean that you have to settle for an inferior or unreliable used car. Thanks to an advancements in mechanical in body engineering, modern cars are built to last, with many older models lasting well over 100 and sometimes even 200 thousand miles.

Of course, it’s also important to note that not all used cars – especially those priced under $1,500, $2,500 or even $5,000 – are created equal. To help you with your search, UsedCars.com has put together a list of a few of the best used cars priced for less than $5,000.

1998-2002 Honda Accord

cc_2008HON001a_320_WXWith a reputation for reliability and superior engineering, the Honda Accord has held its value surprisingly well. Unfortunately, it’s because of this reputation for quality that has made it difficult to find a low price on a newer used model.

The good news, however, is that older Accords, which boast many of the same great designs, features and engineering, continue to rank well in terms of reliability and safety.

Test scores for the 2002 model year include:
• Consumer Reports – Overall Test score: 69/100
• NHTSA – Average crash rating: 4.5/5 .0

View our inventory for the 2002 Honda Accord priced under $5,000 here.

1998-2002 Ford Ranger

cc_2008FRD017b_320_G9With used car prices often listed under $2,500, the Ford Ranger has continually proven to be a tough, capable truck, perfect for the car buyer who doesn’t want to sacrifice quality for price.

Thanks to the Ford Ranger’s ahead-of-its-time engineering and trim options, these used pickups are on par with many of today’s modern trucks.

Test scores for the 2002 model year include:
• NHTSA – Average crash rating: 3.8/5 .0

View our inventory for the Ford Ranger priced under $5,000 here.

1998-2003 Subaru Impreza

What makes the Subaru Impreza so appealing is that it offers a lot more than an impressive record of reliability.

This car’s large and innovatively-designed interior has helped make it become the ideal choice for the car buyer looking for practicality and affordability.

Test scores for the 2003 model year include:
• Consumer Reports – Overall Test score: 59/100
• NHTSA – Average crash rating: 4.1/5 .0

View our inventory for the Subaru Impreza priced under $5,000 here

1990-1997 Mazda Miata

Sporty and fun-to-drive, the first generation Miata (1990-1997) is often priced for less than $2,500. And, with an exterior styling reminiscent of the classic roadsters from the 1950s, this snazzy little convertible is a perfect choice for those who want to turn heads without emptying their bank accounts.

• Consumer Reports – 2010 Overall Test score: 89/100
• NHTSA – 2001 Average crash rating: 4.0/5 .0

View our inventory for the Mazda Miata priced under $5,000 here.

1990-2000 Acura Integra

Fun-to-drive and sporting a surprisingly powerful 142-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, the Acura Integra is a great choice for the performance-minded used car buyer – even more than a decade since these vehicles last rolled off the assembly line. Adding to this sporty hatchback’s appeal is an asking price under $2,000:

Test scores for the 1996 model year include:
• NHTSA – Average crash rating: 3.5/5 .0

View our inventory for the Acura Integra priced under $5,000 here

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What To Look For On A Used Car Test Drive

1191032_78224691After you’ve decided which car models interest you most, taking a test drive is one of the most important steps in the process of buying a used car. A test drive is more than just a free couple of minutes in the car of your choice. It’s the perfect time to decide whether or not the car is right for you. While test driving the car, pay attention the following five areas.

Area One: Comfort

The majority of people buying cars will end up spending a lot of time in them. Whether you’ve got a lengthy commute to and from work, or you’re chauffeuring your kids to extracurricular activities, you want a car that meets your comfort requirements. Being uncomfortable in car isn’t just annoying, but dangerous. It can distract you from where your attention is needed most when you’re driving. Make sure you play with the mirrors and seats to ensure that you can adjust them to the correct positions.

Area Two: Visibility

The more cars you test drive, the more you’ll realize that some have such terrible visibility that it could become a safety issue. Check the visibility while the car is parked and when you’re driving to determine how big blind spots are and where they’re positioned.

Area Three: Car Noise

Noise might not be a deciding factor in whether or not you buy a particular car, but it can contribute to your comfort level when you’re driving. A noisy ride can be bothersome and distracting when you should be focusing on the road.

Area Four: Size

Make sure you’re comfortable with the size of the vehicle you’re test driving. One way to test out how comfortable you are with the size of a car is to try parking it. Test out how it feels to pull into a parking spot, back out of one and how easy it is to parallel park the car. You’ll quickly get a feel for the size of the car and where your comfort level lies.

Area Five: Handling

Take note of how well the car handles as you drive it. How well does it handle turns, curves and different road surfaces? Pay attention to how quickly the car accelerates and how the brakes work, too. The best advice for understanding how the car handles is to test drive it in similar driving conditions that you typically encounter. For example, if you drive on highways daily, you should test drive cars on the highway to understand how the car accelerates.

When it comes time for you to test drive some used cars, make sure you follow these tips. Understanding what to look for when test driving cars can help you make an informed decision when you’re ready to purchase your next vehicle.

Winter Travel Guide: Simple Driving Tips for Snow and Ice

1185230_65198748Of course the best advice you can get when it comes to driving in bad weather is “don’t,” but we here at UsedCars.com know just how impossible that can be a lot of the time. To help you keep safe on the road during this most treacherous time of the year, we’ve created this easy-to-follow checklist that will help you navigate those slippery, icy and snowy roads out there.

Know What You’re Driving

Is your car two-wheel or four wheel drive? Does it have antilock brakes, traction control or stability control? Do you have a set of winter tires or are they all-weather tires? Each of these features can directly impact how your car handles on the ice and the snow. To get a feel for how these features interact with each other, take the time to practice driving in an empty, but snowy, parking lot.

Make Room For Other Drivers

Believe it or not, the time period between November and March is one of the busiest highway travel seasons of the year. To avoid rear-ending others on these crowded highways, be sure to leave three times the normal space between you and the car in front of you.

Add Some Weight

Is your car rear wheel drive? Then those rear tires may need a little help maintaining their grip. Consider adding extra weight behind the rear axle (the rear axle is the rod that runs between your rear tires). This added weight will help to keep those tires on the pavement, which will increase traction. If you are not sure what to use as weight, 20lbs bags of sand are an inexpensive option.

Beware Of Black Ice

Black ice get its name because it blends in with the black asphalt of the road, making it next to impossible to spot. The best advice is to never feel overconfident on a road the looks perfectly clear. And remember, if a road looks wet or slick, there is a good chance that black ice is present.

Brake Carefully

It takes time to stop when the road is icy, and if you end up slamming on your brakes, chances are you will go skidding out of control.

Don’t Brake When Skidding

If you do start to skid, fight the temptation of slamming on your brakes. This will only make things worse. Instead, take your foot off of the accelerator. If braking becomes necessary, you can try slightly pumping your brakes – Never slam them.

Steer Into The Skid

This can be a hard concept to understand, as it often goes against natural instinct. To better understand this concept, imagine that during the skid, your rear tires are trying to move ahead of your front tires. Your goal should be to prevent this from happening.

Please, refer back to this list whenever you need a refresher course on safe winter driving – and remember, one of the best tips is to go slow and take your time.

Winter Tires: Are They Worth The Investment?

1244210_83266184Commanding a slightly higher price tag than a traditional set of all-weather tires, the value and expense associated with winter tires often falls under scrutiny. Many car owners, especially those who live in climates with only intermittent periods or moderate snowfall, tend to underestimate their importance. Instead of making an investment that could help save them from a myriad of potential headaches, they opt to take their chances and go without.

The truth is that winter tires, even in temperate climates, can keep you safe when the road conditions begin to deteriorate. But if you are still skeptical about their value, please read this list of advantages associated with these highway-gripping, skid-stopping, lifesaving tires.

Advantage #1: Winter tires are designed for cold, not just snow.

The misconception has long been that unless you live at a higher elevation or in an extreme northern climate, where snowfall routinely breaks the two-foot mark, winter tires serve little purpose.

The truth, however, is that winter tires work because they are designed for colder temperatures, meaning their value extends past driving in blizzard conditions. If this seems confusing, think about your tires in terms of pliability. A winter tire is designed to remain pliable in colder temperatures – helping it to grip the road better. Compare this to all-season tires, which harden as the thermometer begins to dip, making it much more difficult to maintain traction on the roadways.

Advantage #2: All-season tires are not really for all seasons.

All-season tires were first introduced to the marketplace about 30 years ago, riding on the marketing hype that these tires were great for all types of weather conditions – including icy and snowy roadways. While the all-season tire did offer a big improvement over many of the tires that were available during those days of yesteryear, the simple truth is that they do not offer ideal performance in colder climates.

Instead, for climates where cold weather coupled by periods of snow and ice are common, the winter tire offers the ideal choice. Better suited for everyday winter driving then the “snow tire” but with more traction than the all-weather tire, these tires help to ensure optimal efficiency during wintery periods.

Advantage #3: Staying on the road saves you money.

Of course, the biggest argument against winter tires simply comes down to economics. Many drivers have enough trouble paying for the maintenance and upkeep of one set of tires. So the thought of adding an extra set of tires into the mix can be overwhelming.

The truth, however, is that a good set of winter tires can actually save you money. Not only do they help you stay on the road and avoid accidents. But they also help you avoid paying the repair fees, maintenance costs, deductible and rising insurance premiums often associated with those accidents.