Buying a Used Vehicle in Houston, Texas

Salesman showing new car to customer

How to Purchase a Used Car Like a Pro

Buying a used vehicle can be a stressful process if you don’t know what to expect. There’s a lot of bases to cover to ensure you get the car you want for the price you can afford. Just like any major purchase, the best way to go about it is by having a comprehensive plan. In order to make sure that your used car buying process goes smoothly, here are five easy steps to follow during your purchasing process.

Step #1 – Set a Budget 

Setting a budget is one of the most important steps because it ensures that you don’t overextend yourself or waste the seller’s time. If you intend to finance your used car purchase, keep in mind that you can’t go off the sticker price alone. Make sure to factor in things like processing fees, sales tax, and the registration fee that will appear later down the line. Additionally, it’s a good idea to reserve some funds just in case your used car requires immediate maintenance. For instance, most used cars require a new set of tires sooner rather than later.

Step #2 – Search for Used Cars Near You

In the age of the Internet, searching for new or used cars for sale in Houston is easier than ever. You can start by Google searching “used cars near me.” Feel free to get specific with your search by applying filters regarding the price, drivetrain, and style of the vehicle. Try to find at least two or three vehicles that you believe will be a good match for you.

Step #3 – Check the Vehicle History

Take the additional step in your research process and check the vehicle history. You want to be sure that the car you’re about to buy hasn’t been involved in any major accidents. If it has, then that means the car might have mechanical and/or cosmetic issues. Use your best judgment here. A small fender bender should be okay, but be wary of big accidents that require extensive repairs. The damage incurred from an accident has a way of lingering with a vehicle from a performance perspective.


Step #4 – Test Drive the Car

Once you have narrowed your search down to a few used cars in Texas that seem like they’ll be a good fit, the next step is to test drive. A few best practices to keep in mind when test driving a used car

  • Make sure to test drive the vehicle in both neighborhoods and on the highway so that you can see how the car handles at low speeds and high speeds. Make sure to get a few sharp turns in there – both right and left.
  • Keep the radio off when test driving the car so that you can listen to any odd noises that the car may make while you’re operating it.
  • Make sure to test all the features and knobs/switches in the vehicle. If one of the windows doesn’t roll up or the air conditioning unit doesn’t work, it’s best to discover this now rather than later.
  • Take a good long look at the car searching for any cosmetic damage that you might not have noticed in the original pictures.
  • Take a friend with you that considers themselves knowledgeable in cars. Not only is this a safe practice when used car buying, but it gives you an extra set of eyes on the car. They may notice something about the car that would have originally flown under your radar.
  • Finally, make sure to ask to see the car’s most recent record of service. It’s always good to know when the car last had its tires rotated and its oil changed.

Step #5 – Negotiate Your Deal

Now comes the tricky part, which is negotiating your final price. A good rule of thumb to know when buying used cars: the more issues you can identify the more you will be able to drive down the price. For instance, if the car smells like cigarette smoke or has a lot of stains in the seats, you should be able to negotiate the price down since you will have to get the car professionally detailed to clean it up. The same goes for any mechanical issues or cosmetic body damage you may find wrong with the car.

Keep in mind, most used car sellers intentionally price their cars high expecting to be negotiated down. Don’t be afraid to try to shave a few hundred dollars off the price. The worst thing that could happen is that they reject your offer.

Start Your Used Car Shopping Today!

Now that you know the basics of used car shopping and the potential hurdles to overcome, the next step is to set your budget so that you can officially kick off your search. There are countless used cars to choose from in your local area, so approach the process with patience. Finding the right used car for you is a manner of putting in the time and effort to find the right one.