How to Find a Used Car Deal for a College Student

How to Find a Used Car Deal for a College Student
  • Opening Intro -

    Some college students are able to do without a car while on campus, finding it easier to get around on foot, by bicycle or by using public transportation.

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A number of colleges and universities disallow freshman students from having a car on campus, as limited parking is a big concern. If you are allowed to have a car and you need one, the following steps can help you get one for less money.

1. Determine your budget. How much money do you have to buy a car? Can you get funds from your parents to help pay for your vehicle? Realistically, you may need at least $3,000 for even a 10-year-old compact sedan. Visit Kelley Blue Book at kbb.org to look up prices and to get a feel for the market.

2. Shop around. Your best deal may be with a private party. Deal with a sales person and you will add middle-man markup costs to your purchase. Check Craigslist, local newspaper advertisements and ask people you know to help you. Buying from someone you know can give you detailed information about the car’s operation and it may come with repair records.

3. Consider a dealer. Yes, consider buying a car from a dealer. For two reasons: you will have larger selection of cars to choose from and your purchase will most likely be covered by a basic warranty, perhaps for the first 90 days. If your car is newer, it may come with a new car warranty. The price mark up for buying a certified used car may be higher, but it may be entirely worth it to you. Always test drive the car yourself, putting it through the paces that you’ll be doing as if you owned it.

4. Get it checked out. Never buy a used car from a unfamiliar party without having it checked out by a mechanic first. Take this car to your mechanic and ask for a thorough inspection. Ask your mechanic to put it on a lift to check its engine, transmission, cooling system and suspension. He can also check for frame damage and possibly save you from buying a flood-damaged car. A good mechanic will take note of previous repair work, confirm that recall updates were performed and look for other tell-tale signs of trouble that can cost you hundreds of dollars in repairs almost immediately. You’ll pay a fee for this service, but that cost is certainly worth it.

5. Negotiate your best price. Used car prices are negotiable and that is why knowing its Kelley Blue Book value is an important place to start. Consider a number of factors about the car that may impact its price: the condition of the tires, its trim level, interior and exterior conditions, special modifications done after purchase, mileage and age. Expect that the seller priced his vehicle with a little wiggle room for price. Offer a strong initial offer, listen to his counteroffer and find a price that you both can be happy with.

Car Tips

When registering your vehicle, will you have it tagged and licensed in your home state or in your college’s state, if different? Your insurance costs may determine that, with the state offering the lower costs perhaps where you want to register your vehicle.

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