Shopping for a great used car takes a lot of work. Unlike new car inventory that features a large number of never before driven vehicles, the much larger used car inventory is composed of everything from demo models to run down old jalopies. As a result, finding the best quality vehicle means sorting through a far greater reserve of available cars. We offer some advice on how to find a great used car when there is so much to look at!

Determine What You Want and Need

First things first when buying a used car: How much can you afford to pay? Who will be driving the vehicle? What technology and safety features are important to you? Where will you be driving it? Answering these questions and being specific about the type of car you want will narrow your search parameters. For instance, you might be thinking, “I can pay up to $25,000 for a late model Hyundai Tucson, Chevy Equinox or a Dodge Charger (crazy, we have one of each of those in stock at the moment), equipped with Navigation and outfitted with leather seats. I will use this car as my daily driver.” At this point you have targeted your inventory to focus popular trending vehicle, or say perhaps you’ve budgeted x dollar for fuel each month and you drive a distance to work, you’ve now targeted fuel efficient vehicles as your primary search.

Analyze and Review

With your choices sufficiently narrowed, it is time to evaluate what is left in a bid to shrink your search parameters further. There are some additional questions you need to ask yourself, including: What trim packages do I require? Am I looking for a V6 or a V8 engine? Is fuel efficiency important to me? You should also find car reviews and read what the reviewers have to say about each vehicle.

Do you want a car with good crash test ratings? Head over to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) website to see how the vehicles you’re considering perform in crash tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also provides crash test scores and recall information. The more you know about a vehicle going in, the better for your ownership experience. Use this information to help you narrow your search to just one make and model.

Search For Specific Vehicles

There are a number of ways for you to search for a great used car.  You might start by going directly to the dealer’s website for current inventory and pricing.  If a dealer doesn’t list pricing of a used vehicle, you must ask yourself why?  Knowing what you may be paying before you begin the process is extremely important!!

Review the Car

Once you find a vehicle that interests you, arrange for an appointment to review the car in person. It is best to see a car during daylight hours to accurately gauge the body’s condition, including the finish, trim and accessories. You need to ensure that the body panels match and fit. Raise the hood, check hoses, belts and the condition of the battery. Verify that the coolant is clean and that the engine oil and transmission fluid are clear. Look inside the car and check the condition of the seats, the dashboard and trim. Test every electronic feature for workability, including the seats, steering wheel, Navigation, the audio system, power accessories and other features.

Look for trouble signs under the hood, inside the car and in the trunk. Problems like possible water damage could be present if you notice odd smells such as mildew.

Go For a Drive

Get behind the wheel of the car and take it for a drive. You should drive the car exactly as you plan to use it. Test the lights, adjust the audio system, switch on the cruise control and adjust the suspension settings, if available. Take note of how the car steers and handles, as well as its acceleration and braking, ride comfort, sight lines and other driving factors. It is important for you to uncover as much information about the car as you can through real world driving since a lot of money could be riding on your experience.

If you need financing, a reputable used car dealer is going to have banks that they work directly with.  Try to avoid buy here pay here situations, or dealers that finance you “in house.”   Relationships with Credit Unions are important, they’ll help you establish or maintain positive credit history provided you are making timely payments.

Thanks for taking the time to read our advice (hopefully it wasn’t to one sided).  Check out all of our inventory at find us on Facebook, call us 620.805.6800, or stop by and visit (you never know, maybe we’ll buy a free cup of coffee)!