Shopping for a car can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Unfortunately, it is also one that many people dread. Many shoppers are concerned about buying the wrong vehicle or being taken advantage of. However, the process does not need to be stressful. With just a few small steps, you can make sure you get a fantastic deal on the perfect vehicle for you.

Maintenance History

One of the most important steps a car shopper can take is to thoroughly inspect the maintenance history of any car. This seems like a daunting step, but it does not have to be. Thankfully, there are countless online resources that make checking the history of a vehicle a simple and inexpensive process. While a great deal of maintenance is reported to databases, not all will be. Thus, always ask a seller what records they have on the car. If they have none or dodge the question, it may be best to keep looking.

Accident History

Another key step in purchasing a used vehicle is to make sure the vehicle does not have an extensive accident history. This process is even more straightforward. Whenever a severe accident occurs with a vehicle, it is reported to centralized databases. Typically, running the accident history of a vehicle will cost a few dollars, but it is well worth it. These searches can be done using the VIN of the car, or the license plate. You can find a lot of information tied to a license plate, including accident history.

Further, a simple visual inspection can often tell you a lot about a car’s history. Are there any creases on the frame? Do all the doors close as they should? Is the paint uniform? If in doubt, do not hesitate to have a car inspected by an independent mechanic. A minor fender bender shouldn’t keep you from the car of your dreams, but a salvage title may be a reason to walk away.

Current Condition

Beyond the history of the vehicle, you must also assess its current condition. Even a car with an excellent history can fall into disrepair. Always thoroughly inspect a vehicle for rust, especially if you live in a snowy or damp climate. Listen carefully to the sounds the vehicle makes. Does it sound rough, or make any unnerving clanks or bangs? Does it smell like any fluids? Simply use your senses and keep an eye out for any problems. Your intuition will go a long way.

Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away

There are many online guides available that simplify the process of inspecting a potential vehicle. If the car doesn’t meet your requirements, one of the worst mistakes you can make when shopping for a used car is falling in love. If you decide that you must purchase a car before even inspecting it, you leave yourself vulnerable and apt to use poor judgment. Always look at a car with the mindset that you can leave at any time. A car purchase is a big decision, so don’t let emotions take over.

Don’t Forget About Private Sellers

Many shoppers make the mistake of only looking at dealerships when searching for their next car. However, private sellers may offer considerably better deals. A good technique is to have a private seller meet you at an independent mechanic’s shop. This allows you to have a safe place to view the car as well as an opportunity to have the vehicle professionally inspected for any underlying or hidden issues. Finding the right car can be a simple process. Just take your time and follow the right steps.

Following these tips means more options for finding the right used car for you. If you don’t find the right car right away, remember that the used car market changes regularly and exercising patience when you can will help you to make the best deal possible.