17 May 2013

Car Buying Tips

Young Cheapskater Cecily Morgan emailed with a question this week and as we are in a similar boat to Cecily, with Hannah about to turn 18 and anxious to spend her hard-earned and saved money on her first car, I thought I'd share some of the tips we use when buying cars.

Cecily wrote
"I'm looking at buying my first car but I don't know where to start. I want something reliable without paying a fortune. Do you have any suggestions?  Where should I start looking? When is the best time to buy and how do I make sure I'm not going to get ripped off. Thank you for your help."

Cecily you are smart to do your research first before committing to such a big purchase.  We depend on our cars, and it’s important to have a safe and reliable means of transportation.  Here are a few tips to help you get the best car for the money.

Buy Used

You’ll pay a premium for a new car.  New cars depreciate quickly (really, as soon as you leave the car yard you've lost thousands), so it makes sense to buy used—let someone else pay for the depreciation!  “Used” doesn’t have to mean “lemon,” however.  Even a year-old car offers significant savings.

Do Some Online Research

Think about the features you want in a car: its size, its fuel efficiency, its durability, its resale value, its “bells and whistles.”  Then, start reading about cars.  Make a list of cars you might consider, along with the range of prices and model years.  Be sure to check online and newspaper ads as well to get a sense of what is available.

Do Some Test Driving

Check out some dealerships that sell used cars, and ask to take a test drive.  Don’t buy any cars on the spot!  This is still part of the research.  Be very clear with the salesperson that you are still shopping around.  If you are thinking about buying a car from a private seller, make an appointment to go look at it during daylight hours.  Drive around with the seller and ask questions about everything. If you can take someone who is a mechanically savvy with you on the test drives - it might be your father or an older brother, or even a work colleague, someone who will know if there is a knock in the motor or an odd wobble in the steering and so on.

Do a Background Check

Be sure to get a vehicle history report on any used car you are strongly considering.  This will tell you if the car has been in an accident, or has any recalls, for instance.  This may cost a small fee, but it is definitely worth it.  Ask to see the service books and look at them closely. Also, especially for cars sold by private sellers, hire a mechanic to inspect the car before you buy it.  Your auto club may offer this service for a small fee and it's well worth it if you are not mechanically inclined. You should be a member of your state's auto club too - if you're under 21 membership may be free AND cover you for any vehicle you are in, not just your own. Again, it's well worth investigating and even if you don't qualify for free membership, for peace of mind it's worth the annual fee.


Don’t pay asking price.  If you have done adequate research, you can be confident about a price you are requesting.  Be willing to walk away.  Both dealers and private sellers want their car to move, and that can work to your advantage.

Bonus Tip!   The end of the month is often a good time to a buy a car from dealerships, since many of them are trying to make sales quotas and are more willing to negotiate.

Cheapskater Corinna Wijnen created a Car Buying Checklist that you can take with you when you're looking and doing your research. You can get a copy here.


  1. Check the warranty period on a used car. If you are buying a one, two or sometimes three year old car you may still have a year or two of warranty time up your sleeve to fix up any problems.

  2. Also, be aware that car yards have to give a 500km/3 months guarantee. We bought a 2nd hand car that turned out to have a faulty gear box. We priced it at $3500 to fix ourselves and, when the car yard was less than helpful, went to the Office of Fair Trading. Our car did get repaired and we had a loan car from them until it was ready.

  3. This is a good idea to buy a used car. This will be in your budget and if you do proper research before buying you can get the good product. It is very important to make sure that you are paying for the right thing. For instance, you can visit woodstockmotors-car body shop for sale for further guidelines.

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  5. Good tips! Buying used car is a good idea to own a car in cheap. Check the warranty of car is most essential thing to keep in mind while going to make a deal on used car.


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