Let’s face it, used car salesmen don’t exactly have the best reputation. We’ve seen it on tv and in the movies. You know, the one where the seedy car salesman tries to get you to buy the “really great deal” car in the back of the lot that falls apart within a few kilometres of driving it away. They’re always portrayed as an untrustworthy villain character, making a lot of us truly nervous about even going to a car dealership.

We know of course that this character is a stereotype and can’t possibly be true about all car lots, but it is still a concern that there are salespeople out there who are looking to profit themselves and will do whatever it takes to do so. There are dealerships out there who are truly dishonest and would say or do anything to make a buck off of you. But, don’t despair, you can still find a great deal on a used car.

There are plenty of good salesmen, reliable dealerships and plenty of great cars. You just need to find the right one, and have the right tips to find it. Below are some of the best tips out there for buying a used car from a car dealership, so read on and get yourself a beautiful bargain today.

Check your finances

Before you can even begin to start looking at cars, you need to know how much you can truly afford to pay. Chances are you probably need to stick to a budget when buying your used car. A good rule of thumb is to start is to know how much money you can put down as a down payment. That amount should be worth about 20% of your total purchase. If you don’t have any funds for a down payment, and not enough time to save up for one, it’s certainly still possible to purchase a used car, but be prepared to spend more on interest in the long run.

Read the reviews

You know how you search for the best Thai food in your city? Or how you check reviews on that vacuum cleaner before you go out and spend a couple of hundred dollars? Buying a used car should prompt you to check reviews on the make and model, as well as the reviews of the dealership. Don’t assume by the looks of the car or the advertisement of a used car dealership that they’re going to be trustworthy. It’s worth taking the time to see what other people’s experiences have been.

Begin by doing some basic research on the type of car you want to purchase. You should already have your budget in hand when doing this research, so it should be easy to narrow down what you can afford and what type of car fits your needs and finances.

Once you’ve decided on your top few types of cars, you can start doing some Google searches on the dealerships in your area. Reviews will be your best friend when trying to find a decent car dealership. Make sure you read them all, and keep an open mind at the same time. Look for some recurring themes in the comments, good or bad, to help guide you to the most reputable places.

Bring a checklist

Now you’re ready to begin visiting dealerships! Before you even step foot onto your first car lot, you’ll want to write up a checklist that has all of your questions, needs, and wants for your new car on it. This will help you compare dealerships and cars, as it’s quite easy to forget the details once you’ve left the dealership or started looking at another vehicle. Use something like this checklist to physically inspect each car and to help you ask the right questions.  

Check for a warranty

Always ask what kind of warranties are available for the car you’re interested in. While most new cars will have a warranty automatically, many used cars will not. If you’re buying from a reputable used car dealership it should be an option for you. Make sure you look into what exactly is covered under the warranty, as many of them can be quite tricky and cover very little, or for a short period of time.

Car service record

One thing you should always ask for from a dealership, or even a private seller, is the car’s service record. Find out where the car has been taken for most of its service, if applicable, and get a record of what was done there. Finding out where the car was taken can be really helpful, because not only can you discover how reputable the service centre is, you can also ring them to find out more details about the car you are buying. For example, taking your car to a Mazda service centre in Christchurch might be completely different from an Audi service centre in Christchurch. Make the call to find out more.

Many newer cars are much more electronic than older cars, meaning that things like the ignition, the radio, and parts of the engine are all controlled by electronics. Your potential car’s service record should include proof that the service centre was up to date and that their technicians were trained as auto electricians as well.  

Up to date Warrant of Fitness

Every car that you look at should have an up to date Warrant of Fitness (WoF). This is a basic annual requirement for all cars in New Zealand and shouldn’t need to be disputed. If a dealership doesn’t have an up to date WoF on a car, and you’re interested in it, make sure that the car is serviced first to make sure it would pass the WoF.  

Brush up on your negotiation skills

Once you’ve decided on a car, it’s time to break out the negotiating skills and haggle out a price. Unfortunately for many of us, negotiating can be awkward and just plain difficult. Use some of these tips for negotiating with car dealers to help you out.

If you follow these tips as well as use your intuition, you will be able to avoid those shady car salesmen from the movies and get the best deal possible on the car that fits you and your budget.


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