Knowing all the steps when buying used car can be beneficial

Stevon Duey and Stevon Duey

Recently, senior Joshua McGinnis purchased a used 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid.

McGinnis said he did his research before deciding what car to buy.

“You should always research before you go to the dealership,” McGinnis said. “And before you go out and negotiate, know what you’re negotiating.”

McGinnis did not have the vehicle inspected, but said he has not had any problems since making his purchase in December; he feels at ease knowing he purchased a warranty on the vehicle.

Buying a used car can seem like a daunting and overwhelming experience, but there are some resources available to first-time buyers.

For a small fee, local vehicle service shops can do a full inspection on a vehicle for used car buyers.

Brent Sockman, owner of Sockman Automotive, Inc. on Grant Street, said a car can appear to be in great shape when it’s sitting in front of you, but having the car lifted and inspected is always beneficial when investing in a new vehicle.

“Any reputable car dealer will let you take the car off the lot to be looked at before you buy it,” Sockman said.

Used cars can have hidden damage that may not show up on vehicle history reports because the damage is ongoing and hasn’t reached a breaking point.

A full-vehicle inspection allows a certified mechanic to look for problem spots underneath the car where many problems can hide.

Sockman warns that brake and fuel lines tend to be the most expensive and overlooked parts when buying a used car.

“Exterior oxidation that causes rust isn’t a problem. But the brake lines and fuel lines rust too and those can get costly to repair,” Sockman said.

When searching for a vehicle, people should ask about warranties, Sockman said.

Many used cars are sold “as-is,” which can leave buyers on their own if repairs are needed in the short term.

“If there’s no warranty and you buy it, it’s yours and your problem,” Sockman said.

Jack Lafferty, used car manager at Thayer Honda on Main Street, said shoppers tend to be price-driven.

“It’s the first thing [customers] look at,” Lafferty said.

Lafferty has spent 46 years in the business and said that he has seen a trend in prices for vehicles in recent years.

“There’s always a point of negotiation in the car business,” Lafferty said. “But the Internet is taking that away.”

With instant access to prices and reviews of vehicles online, consumers lose some of their ability to negotiate prices. Dealers compete with internet sales by pricing vehicles at almost the lowest point they can sell them.

“The internet is good and bad. It makes people comfortable seeing the best price but they can’t negotiate on lowest prices anymore,” Lafferty said.

Using appraisal websites like Kelley Blue Book allows customers to research fair prices by entering the vehicle’s make, model, year and other information.

Carfax, a vehicle history reporting company, allows shoppers to see a detailed history of vehicle damage from accidents and records of the vehicle’s repairs.

For McGinnis, financing a used car was familiar, but for some first-time buyers, the process can be confusing.

When deciding how to pay for a car, customers are faced with the option to pay by cash, check, credit card or by opening financing.

Financing a vehicle means taking out a loan from a bank at an approved interest rate for a designated period of repayment.

Higher credit scores lead to better rates for customers and can lower the final cost of a vehicle.

“Each time is different but we’ll go over all the options with the customer,” Lafferty said. “I can sit down and be straight with them. I haven’t lasted 46 years in this business by being a bad guy.”