A Step-by-Step Buyer’s Guide to Car Shopping on a Budget

June 19th, 2020 by

Two rows of used cars for sale in Mesa, AZ, are shown focused on the trunks.

The process of searching for and buying a car can take a lot of work on your part, especially if you’re shopping on a budget. There may be plenty of options out there, but with certain budgetary constraints and personal wants and needs, your options may begin to narrow down. If you’re on the hunt for used cars for sale, you must consider multiple things before going out there and seeing what’s available.

If ever money isn’t a consideration, car shopping becomes a relatively easy and stressless situation. You research a few things, and then you go out and buy what you want. When you throw a budget into the mix, everything becomes slightly more complicated. Now, you have to consider what features are absolutely necessary and what you can do without. Depending on your budget, you might need to seriously reconsider getting any advanced features at all. Fortunately, there are still plenty of options out there that can fit almost any budget someone might have. Here, we’ll go over how you can approach shopping for used cars when you’re on a budget.

Figure out Your Budget and Stick to It

First, you need to figure out exactly what you’re willing to spend on a used vehicle. This number will ultimately depend on your own financial situation and can have a limited range to it. But, you should at least have a maximum amount in mind. There should be a number that you will not cross, no matter what.

If you can come up with a specific maximum number, it makes it much easier for you to have a prepared mindset. In the world of used cars for sale, it’s not uncommon to have some wiggle room for negotiation at certain dealerships and with specific salespeople. Depending on the salesperson, you can let them know the price range you’re looking for, and they’ll show you the different vehicles that fit your price range. This will quickly filter out all the vehicles outside of your price range, saving you a lot of time in the process.

A couple is sitting on the couch while budgeting.

Set Expectations

As you start your used car search, you must set appropriate expectations. When you’re on a budget, there’s no reason to think you’re going to get a nearly perfect vehicle with low miles and every premium feature you could ever dream of having. Most of the time, there will have to be some exceptions made. It would be best if you realize your car isn’t going to be brand new, and it’s possibly going to have a lot of miles. For many people looking for used cars, the under-$10,000 mark is an excellent place to look. If you’re looking for vehicles in that price range, you can expect them to be at least five years old. Many times, they will be a few years older than that.

Mileage may vary, but you can expect a used car within this range to have at least 50,000 miles, although that would typically be on the lower end of the spectrum. Many of these vehicles will have at least 80,000 miles, and some will have over 100,000 miles. If you go into your car-buying experience knowing the vehicle is going to be slightly older and have more miles on it, your expectations will be tempered. You will know exactly what to expect, so there will be no surprises.

Know What You Want, But Keep an Open Mind

There’s nothing worse than looking for a used car when you don’t know what you’re looking to find. Instead of wasting both your time and a possible salesperson’s time, make sure you know what type of vehicle you’re interested in purchasing. You can get as specific as you’d like, but keep in mind the more specific you get, the less likely you’ll be able to find a vehicle that meets your needs while staying within your budget.

Most car dealerships make it easy for you to search their online inventory and filter out whatever you want. You can search by make, model, type of vehicle, color, and much more. It wouldn’t be too outrageous to be interested in finding a sedan with an automatic transmission with decent gas mileage. It’s more specific than any vehicle on the market, so it will narrow the range down and filter out any gas guzzlers along the way. However, you can go even more specific if you want. Even if you went with one particular brand, like Honda, Ford, Chevy, or Toyota, there are plenty of options available. You wouldn’t be pigeonholing yourself much at all by choosing one or two specific brands and then a type of vehicle, like a sedan or SUV.

Searching by one specific make and model could be too specific in some cases. Still, if you search for common vehicles like Honda Civics or Toyota Corollas, it shouldn’t be difficult to find multiple options. Just remember to keep an open mind. You may be interested in a Honda Civic, but if you find a good deal on a Honda Accord within your budget, you might consider going for it. There are many vehicles out there that are very similar to each other, so don’t stress too much about finding the exact car you’d want and consider all of the options presented to you.

A grey 2015 Honda Accord is driving past yellowed grass.

Get a Report and Have It Inspected

The most significant fear people have with used cars is they don’t know precisely what they’ve been through unless they know the previous owner. It’s a common thing to think about, so don’t think it’s strange if you feel the same way. Car dealerships know this, which is why many of them will do their best to provide you with as much information as possible on the cars they sell. You may think dealerships just want to make money, but they also want to provide reliable vehicles to their customers. It wouldn’t be good for business if customers weren’t satisfied with the cars they were buying, so they have an incentive to provide you with working vehicles.

But you also have your own incentive to put in a little effort. It may take a little extra money, which you can figure into your budget, but a car report and a proper inspection of the vehicle can go a long way in making sure you’re getting something decent. Car reports can give you a lot of insight into the vehicle’s history, like any accidents or repairs that have happened or been made. And a thorough inspection will take it even further. You can save some money on the inspection if you can get a good mechanic friend to check out vehicles with you.

If you don’t have a mechanic friend, one of the best ways to “inspect” the car yourself is to take it for a drive. Make sure you’re allowed to drive it at higher speeds and even go onto the highway so you can see how everything handles in normal driving conditions. This isn’t a foolproof method, but you’ll at least get an idea of how the vehicle is functioning.

Check Out Used Cars Today

At Arizona Car Sales, we think your car-buying experience should be easy and affordable. We want you to know exactly what you’re getting when you buy a car from us, so we make the experience as transparent as possible. It all starts with our extensive online inventory that you can browse from the comfort of your own home, and then, when you’re ready, you can give us a call to test drive your ideal choice. Come check out what we have to offer today!

Posted in Used Cars For Sale