One of the best ways to save money and build for the future is to watch how much you spend. For many of us, the cost of a new car is second only to a home in terms of monthly cost. The payment on a new car could easily reach $300, or even $400 or more, every month. With that kind of outlay, it can be hard to put money aside for retirement and other future expenses.
That is why so many financial advisors recommend that their clients avoid new cars and purchase gently used cars instead. There is a lot to be said for following that advice. When you buy a quality used car, you can avoid those high payments and put that extra money into a savings or investment account instead.
The problem is how to identify a quality used car. When you drive up to the average car lot, you will be confronted by dozens of different vehicles, along with slick salespeople who claim that every car, truck and SUV on the lot is of top quality. Sorting out the true gems from all the rest can be a tough task, and it is important to shop carefully.
If you are not a car expert, it is a good idea to bring along someone who is. If you have a mechanic you trust, ask them to accompany you as you shop, or at least have them give a once-over on the car you have chosen. A good mechanic will be able to uncover defects that might not be apparent to the average shopper, and getting those things out in the open could save you a lot of time and trouble.
If you are not able to bring your mechanic with you, at least bring along someone who knows about cars. A good friend or relative can help you find a quality car and provide an independent voice with the car salespeople.
The test drive is another important part of the car-buying process, and it can be just as vital as the original inspection. When you test drive a used car, you are doing far more than just taking it around the block or out for a spin. You need to put that used vehicle through its paces by accelerating and decelerating quickly, turning the steering wheel to its limits and listening carefully for noises that could signal problems down the road.
Turn off the radio before you pull out of the used car lot. This will allow you to hear any noises clearly and give you a good feel for how the vehicle really sounds. Step on the brake firmly as you exit the lot. Listen to the sounds the braking system makes and take note of how quickly and smoothly the vehicle comes to a halt.
Once you are on the road, approach the first intersection and apply the brake again. The car should stop promptly and the brake pedal should feel firm under your foot. Turn the wheel while the car is stopped. You should not hear any squealing or encounter any resistance. Do the same turns of the steering wheel as you continue your test drive. Again, the wheel should operate smoothly with no resistance.
Look for an opportunity to accelerate quickly, like getting on the highway or merging with traffic. You should feel a smooth pickup with no hesitation. There should be no strange noises or other indications that the engine is suffering under the strain of the sudden acceleration.
This kind of hard test drive is an absolute must if you are buying a used car. A used vehicle can be an excellent choice, but only if you get one that will be reliable for years to come.