Purchasing a used car can be a complicated process to tackle, especially when no two cars are exactly the same. Each car has its own unique story to tell that can either cause you no trouble or become your worst nightmare. If you are wondering how to buy a used car in Fontana, Ontario, or San Bernardino County and not sure what to look for, you may be a little overwhelmed with the amount of choices, but don’t worry! You’re not alone. There are nearly 40 million used cars sales every year, and there have been many people in the same shoes as you are. Selecting the perfect pre-owned car for you might be a challenge, but we have collected some helpful tips and steps for you in hopes of making this important buying decision for you a little easier. Here’s our guide on how to buy a used car:
How much are you able to afford on a used car? Come up with a reasonable number, while keeping in mind used cars may need a little more maintenance from time to time, along with costs of fuel and insurance (like any car). If your budget is tight, you might want to cut your spending limit even further to account for fuel and insurance costs. It is a good idea to set aside some for miscellaneous repair costs that may come up as well. If you are extra tight on money and/or have low credit, many dealerships offer financing options that can still make it possible for you to walk out the door with the car you want. If you’re considering trading in your vehicle at a dealership, you may have more wiggle room to add a little more on top for a better vehicle.
Before you step foot into a used car dealership in the Inland Empire, get a better idea of what you are looking for to fit your needs. Searching online using terms such as ‘used cars for sale in Fontana’ or checking your local newspaper for used car classifieds in your area is a great place to start. You can then filter your search and narrow down options considering important factors such as car make, model, color, mileage, price, features, and how far to search within Southern California.
It is always a good idea to consider a number of car brands to gauge pricing, as well as get a better idea of what’s available in the market. When looking for used cars for sale in San Bernardino or Riverside Counties, we suggest building a list of at least 3 different cars from different brands that fall in your price range while meeting your needs to compare from. There are many used car brands from Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, & Nissan to name a few. If you are seeking to purchase a car that is under 5 years old, it may be a good idea to consider a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle. Although they may be more costly upfront, CPO cars come with long-time warranties that are not just limited to the dealerships selling you the vehicle, but are backed with the carmakers which may be beneficial for you.
How much the used car costs out the door is a huge factor in one’s buying decision. You can find used cars to compare pricing at new-car dealerships, used-car lots, and through popular independent-party websites where sellers list vehicles, such as Craigslist, and CarMax. Of these sources, independent parties tend to have the lowest selling price. You can also check around for the average price other shoppers are paying for the same models you’re eyeing in your area.
If you plan to buy any used vehicle, you need to get the full history report to get a good understanding of the car’s current condition and any accidents it has been through to determine potential additional issues and extra costs associated for maintenance. The history reports can reveal critical information about the vehicle that make or break your buying decision. There are great resources online to check for a vehicle’s history report such as CarFax, requiring the vehicle identification number (VIN), or sometimes just the license plate. Fortunately, R&B Auto Center provides free CarFax reports with every vehicle for peace of mind.
After careful deliberation and consideration of your potential options and you have finally narrowed down to your final decision, contact the seller to verify additional information on the vehicle as well as availability. If the vehicle you have chosen is listed from a private party, you can ask their reasoning for selling the vehicle, and ask whether it has any mechanical issues to be aware of. If the car is at a used car dealership, calling them is a good way to ascertain the vehicle is still in stock. The seller may disclose additional information that was not advertised that may change your mind about making the purchase. There are used-car questionnaire templates available to make sure you get all of your most important questions covered.
Many customers get anxious to discuss and negotiate the asking price before even seeing the used car for sale, it is a good idea to wait, check its history, inspect it in person to determine if it is still of interest. If the vehicle fits your requirements, you have a better idea of its condition to tie your offer to.
What better way to decide if the used car is the right fit for you than to put yourself behind the wheel for spin? This will also help you better assess the car’s condition. Some things to think about during your test run:
Is it easy to get in and out of the car?
Does the car provide enough room for you? (headroom, hiproom, legroom, and backseat space for passengers)
Is it comfortable to drive in? Are you able to adjust the seating position in this particular vehicle to your liking?
Are there any maintenance check lights on? If so, it is best they are addressed and resolved before making the purchase.
Does anything smell off? (present odor of gas, burning oil, etc)
How is the condition of the tires? How old are they? Is there decent tread?
How are the brakes functioning? Are they in good condition? Do they squeak?
Take a look under the hood. Even if you do not have thorough knowledge about cars, check to see if there are leaks, oily spots, steaming, or looks off. If there are, this is the time to ask questions.
Is there air conditioning? Does it work?
Do the headlights, brake lights, and turn indicators work properly?
Can the seller provide you the vehicle’s service records? These help show if the vehicle has been properly maintenanced and how often.
Take the car in for a pre-purchase inspection with a local mechanic in San Bernadino area before making your final buying decision. This should not be a problem with an independent seller or a dealership. A professional may be able to inform you of any additional problems you wouldn’t have identified yourself. Although the inspection costs will be out of your own pocket, it is considered a small investment that can potentially save you a lot of money if problems are detected early enough. You can skip getting a pre-purchase inspection if it is a CPO vehicle because it has already been inspected with a warranty in place.
After following the steps of evaluating the car, test driving, and taking it in for a pre-purchase inspection, the next step is the negotiation process. Negotiating doesn’t have to be a tricky ordeal. You can seal a pretty good deal relatively quick and easily if you are reasonable and are prepared.
Decide your final budget for the used far based on the overall evaluation, but do not start with this number in the beginning of the negotiation process.
Begin the opening offer with a number lower than your maximum spending limit and in the range of the average price you’ve researched in step 3. You can share the research and facts to support your offer.
Hopefully, you and the seller are able to come to an agreement on the final asking price that is close to the average paying price for this particular vehicle. If so, you are in great shape.
If you’re buying from a used car dealership in Fontana, you will sign the contract in their office. The dealership will likely offer warranty, anti-theft devices, protection services, and other additional items. R&B Auto Center is currently offering a one-year maintenance included with any car purchase (2 oil changes and tire rotations based on 10,000 miles per year). If the vehicle is past their warranty or isn’t CPO, consider getting an extended warranty to help offer you a peace of mind. Review the contract carefully and thoroughly before signing. In the majority of states, the contract includes the cost of vehicle, documentation fee, and sometimes additional charges for a smog certificate, sales tax, and license fees. If the pre-owned vehicle is sold from an independent owner, confirm that the owner transfers the title and registration properly to you. Make sure you close the deal properly in order to avoid after-sale headaches. Request the title (or pink slip) with the vehicle signed over to you before making any money transaction. Check with the DMV to make sure there are no past-due registration fees you would be responsible for once in your possession. Regardless where you purchase the vehicle, do not drive it away without having appropriate insurance.
After you’ve finished up the last step, there is nothing left to do but to drive off into the distance in your new whip! Remember, buying a used car in Southern California does not have to be an overwhelming battle. With the right steps laid out, a little research, and some preparation from this used car buying guide, you can dive into this part of adulting confidently and come to the surface with a great deal on your new used car. Don’t be pressured to rush into any uninformed buying decision you are not ready for, and take your time to find the right car that is ideal for you. Good luck, and happy car hunting!