Four tips for buying a used car

  • Mary Pollard is Vice President of Consumer Lending at Ascend Federal Credit Union.

There may finally be light at the end of the tunnel for Middle Tennessee residents who are in the market for a used vehicle. Used vehicle prices have soared during the pandemic, but have fallen for four consecutive months according to the April Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

After peaking in January, prices for used cars and trucks fell 0.2% in February, 3.8% in March and 0.4% in April. Prices stabilized in May, but buyers still paid $60 less than the previous month.

While this is indeed good news, used vehicle prices are still more than 11% more a year ago, according to the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index. Kelley’s Blue Book puts the average price of a used car at around $28,312.

With prices steadily falling, more and more consumers are buying used cars and trucks. Dealertrack, a leading automotive data and software analytics company, says loans for used cars and trucks increase by 10% year after year. The demand for used vehicle loans by our credit union members is even higher.

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Here are four tips to help Middle Tennessees make a smart used car purchase:

1. Know what you can afford

Before deciding what type of used vehicle to buy, you must first determine your budget. Review your income, expenses, and debts to make sure the price range of the car you want fits your budget.

Be sure to factor in other expenses such as gas mileage, insurance, maintenance and repairs. Don’t forget the interest you will pay each month if you take out a loan.

This will give you a complete picture of the estimated costs of owning and operating your vehicle.

2. Research used car and truck prices

Knowledge is power, so before entering a car dealership, it pays to familiarize yourself with the cost of the make and model of the vehicle you wish to purchase.

There are many excellent resources online: Edmunds.com and kbb.com, for example, to help you get started. These websites also provide articles on how to negotiate with dealers.

You can also visit online sellers such as Autotrader.com, Cars.com, CarMax or Carvana, when making comparative purchases.

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3. Get pre-approved for a loan

Due to the increased demand for used cars, you may be competing with several other buyers of popular vehicles. To give yourself an edge, get pre-approved for an auto loan if you’re borrowing to make the purchase.

Mary Pollard

A pre-approval will improve your bargaining power and help you close the purchase faster, especially if other buyers haven’t been pre-approved. Most credit unions and banks, including Ascend, offer online tools that facilitate the transmission of the information necessary to obtain a car or used truck loan.

4. Know what you are buying

Before driving a newly purchased used vehicle off the lot, make sure it is in good condition and meets your needs. To be sure, you can:

  • Take it for a test drive so you are comfortable with the seats, the dashboard, and the way the car or truck handles on the road.
  • Review the vehicle’s accident and service history, if you haven’t already done so during the research phase, by consulting reports from a company such as Carfax or other service providers.
  • Have the car or truck inspected by a mechanic or friend who knows a bit about automobiles.

Buying a car for your next used vehicle can be fun, not stressful. By following these tips, you’ll be in the driver’s seat to ensure your used car or truck meets your transportation needs and fits your budget. Good behavior !

Mary Pollard is Vice President of Consumer Lending at Ascend Federal Credit Union.

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