My Recent Used Car Buying Experience

speedometer from dashboard of used car

At A Glance – Most of us don’t purchase a vehicle that often. Here are some lessons I learned while buying a used car.

Show of hands…how many of you like the car buying experience? NOT ME! Oh, don’t get me wrong, I like the end result; a new-to-me vehicle. But I don’t like buying a car. I don’t enjoy all the shenanigans at the dealership. The haggling, the “I’ve got to go talk to my manager,” and the time it seems to waste.

But, there are times when we have to do it. Whether we like it or not.

I recently found myself needing to buy a car. I liked the car I had, but now I need a car that will tow a trailer, and my Highlander will not do it.

My previous car purchase was done at CarMax. It wasn’t too painful. We shopped the lot and found the Highlander we wanted. We traded our current vehicle and drove out. It took a few hours. Not too bad.

I knew this experience might be different. We had a specific need that not too many vehicles would meet. This meant probably going to a dealer.

The experience was actually rather pleasant. I learned a few things in the process and thought I would pass them on.

Lessons Learned From Buying A Used Car

2021 Covid Weirdness

As with other consumer products in 2021, used cars are overpriced.  It really wasn’t a good time to buy, but since I was trading one used car for another, I hoped all would even out.

Lesson Learned: My opinion is not to buy a product that has become overpriced because of Covid shortages. I had planned on a home remodel in 2021, but am waiting till lumber prices stabilize. New vehicles are part of these shortages, which is causing used cars to be overpriced. Be aware of the price of both your purchase and your trade-in.

Do Your Homework

We found the right vehicle for our purposes the first day we looked.  This was unexpected.  The right model, year, and price range was on the lot.  We made a deal that day.

Lesson learned:  We had already gone through our numbers.  We had determined how much we would probably get for our trade-in and how much we could spend in addition to that.  All the research we had done prepared us to make a decision quickly.

The Benefits Of Being FI

When the right vehicle was found so quickly, the process was easy because we were ready with the funds.  No financing needed! Being FI made this experience stress-free!

Lesson learned:  Being FI gave us the flexibility to act quickly and to make the decision that was right for us.  And, we didn’t have to spend a painful hour or two in the finance office! We were confident about our numbers and this deal met the criteria.

Look At Everything On The Car Before You Finalize The Deal

This was our biggest lesson. We looked at the car, but not in great detail.  We found a few things that needed to either be replaced or cleaned.  The dealership agreed to everything we asked for.  Including replacing all 4 tires and shampooing all the carpet a second time.

Lesson learned: We should have looked closer.  The dealership agreed to all our requests.  I’m sure there would have been a point where they said no, but we might have gotten more out of the deal. After we got home, we discovered other things we should have asked for.

Your Choice of Dealership Matters

Our personal experience over the years is that dealerships matter. Several years ago we bought a used Toyota Matrix from a Lexus dealership. We were treated well and given a very fair price for our trade-in.

Another experience did not go so well. After negotiating a price on purchase and trade-in, we decided not to buy. It wasn’t the right deal for us. When we were ready to leave, they suddenly “lost the keys” to our trade-in. We finally had to get nasty to get our keys back so we could leave!

Lesson Learned: If you are buying a vehicle from a dealership, sometimes a high-end brand will give you a better experience. But, no matter the brand, if you are not being treated well – they don’t need your money! If the deal is not good for you, be prepared to walk away.

Key Takeaway – Do your homework before you purchase any depreciating asset. Know what you want, what you can afford, and why you’re buying it!

Coming Soon – Saving Money on Groceries

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