Once you’ve decided to move to the U.S., the list of things you need to do is going to fill up fast. Buying a used car will be one of your main priorities — The U.S practically demands everyone has access to their own transport. We know that moving to a new country and buying an automobile can be daunting, so we’ve put together this handy guide, especially for people relocating to the U.S. from overseas.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Decide on the features you want in your used car
- Decide on the right car for you and build a shortlist
- Find out a fair price for the cars on your shortlist
- Understand the other costs of running a car
- Work out what you can afford to pay
- Understand your financing options and loans for buying a used car
- Establish if you want use a private seller or a dealer
- Find dealers in your area and check out what they are charging
- Visit the dealers and ask questions
- Negotiate with the used car dealer on price
- Buy the car
- Get insurance for your new vehicle
- Remember to get your car serviced regularly
- Enjoy your used car!
We’ll cover each of these below.
1. Decide on the features you want in your used car
The best place to start is to decide on the main features you want in your car. For example, are you after good gas mileage, four-wheel drive, safety features, low maintenance, enough room for the family, or something else? If you’re moving to one of the northern states, you’ll probably want a car that’s designed for winter conditions.
Features you want in a used car could include:
- Four-Wheel or All-Wheel Drive.
- Front and side airbags.
- Anti-lock braking system (ABS).
- Built in stereo / CD player / Bluetooth connection.
- Plenty of trunk space.
- Excellent miles-per-gallon for lower running costs.
There are plenty of online resources for comparing cars including:
2. Decide on the right car for you and build a shortlist
Once you’ve compared cars, create a shortlist of three to four vehicles that would best suit your needs. You will want to know the make, model, trim level (extra features), and the year. Some of the most popular and widely-available choices are:
- Coupes / Sedans: Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Ford Mustang, or Mazda 3
- Hatchbacks: Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, or Kia Sorento.
- SUVs / Crossovers: Mazda CX-5, Toyota Highlander, Honda CR-V, or Subaru Forester
Check that all of the cars on your shortlist meet your desired features, in terms of reliability, fuel efficiency, safety, etc. Consumer Reports has some very helpful information on car reliability by brand.
3. Find out a fair price for the cars on your shortlist
Now you’ve narrowed down your choices to three or four cars, you’ll need to understand what you can expect to pay for each one. There are a variety of helpful resources to let you enter details of the cars you’re interested in and they will provide you with estimated, average pricing for those cars.
Estimates do vary, so it’s worth getting valuations from several different websites. Once you know the price in U.S. dollars, you’ll want to understand how much it is in your own currency. XE.com lets you easily work out costs in various currencies.
4. Understand the other costs of running a car
Of course, you’ll want to think about areas besides the purchase price when working out how much a car will cost you. Plan the following into your budget:
- Gas / petrol prices based on how far you intend to drive and the price in the area you’re moving to. You can find gas prices here.
- Property tax you’ll need to pay on the value of the car.
- Maintenance, repairs, and servicing.
- Licenses, taxes, and registration.
- Car insurance premiums.
5. Work out what you can afford to pay
It’s important to have a budget in mind when you want a used car loan. You need to work out how much you can afford to pay and your repayment amounts so you can plan your loan accordingly. . Our handy used car loan calculator lets you work out your repayments based on how much you want to borrow and for how long.
6. Get a car loan for expats or car loan for international students
Having a loan and car financing already in place puts you in a strong position when it comes to negotiating or haggling on a used car. We know expats and international students can have a hard time getting a loan in the U.S., which is why we’re experts in helping people from overseas get automobile loans.
We specialize in car loan for expats and car loan for international students and provide financing at very competitive interest rates, repayment lengths, and terms. We work with your unique car financing needs including:
- Different types of residency, citizenship, permits, and visas.
- Not having a credit history in the U.S. and need to build credit history.
- Making loan repayments affordable on any budget.
7. Establish if you want use a private seller or a dealer
When it comes to buying a car, you can choose to go to a private seller — A private citizen who wants to sell their vehicle, or to a dealer — A business who specializes in new or used cars. We would recommend going to a dealer as you will generally get better protections. For an additional guarantee, look for a dealer who provides “Certified Pre-Owned” cars. These provide you with additional options in the event of any problems.
Many dealers have excellent used cars that are only 1 – 2 years old with bumper-to-bumper insurance still holding, depending on the mileage and date. The main loss of value on a car is within the first two years, so you can expect to get excellent value for the money.
8. Find dealers in your area and check out what they are charging
Next, you’ll want to find used car dealers in your area. Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader, Cars.com, and Edmunds can all help you locate local dealers and give you detailed pricing information. Get a list of two or there dealers for the cars you’re interested in.
9. Visit the dealers and ask questions
You’ll want to contact the dealers and find out what types of deals they are offering. Although you can do this over the phone or via email, nothing beats speaking to people face-to-face. Visit the dealers and ask questions including:
- What is the service history of the car? Find out about maintenance, repairs, and any other issues with the automobile. Ask to see the service history. Vehicle History and Carfax will provide car history reports.
- What guarantees are included with the car? Find out if the dealer will cover parts and labor for the car after you have purchased it, and for how long. It might also be worth buying an extended warranty if one is available.
- Take the car for a test drive to see how the car handles and if it meets your needs.
10. Negotiate with the used car dealer on price
This is one of the hardest parts of buying a used car, negotiating on how much you’re willing to pay. Here are some tips:
- Know the value of the vehicle ahead of time, and how much others have paid — This gives you a great starting point or target price. The websites we shared above can help you understand what others have paid, and what price is a good deal.
- Always write your questions down and make sure you get answers to each one — When you’re in the middle of haggling, it can be easy to lose track.
- Don’t tell the salesperson how much you have to spend — Don’t give them a budget, make them come to your price, not the other way around.
- Don’t feel rushed into things or let the salesperson change the subject — This is an important decision you’re making. Don’t let the salesperson talk about anything other than selling the car, and don’t feel you need to make an immediate decision.
- Be ready to walk away — You don’t have to buy a car from a specific dealer. Have a target price in mind, and if they can’t meet it, don’t be afraid to say no.
- Understand exactly what you’re buying — Find out what’s included in the price you’re paying. Don’t let the salesman add on anything you haven’t agreed to.
- Get the car checked by an independent engineer or mechanic — Make an offer for the car but state you’re going to get it inspected by an independent mechanic first of all. Deduct any issues the mechanics finds from your offer price.
11. Buy the car
Once you’re satisfied that the car meets your needs, has the features you want, has a good, reliable service history, and is being sold for a fair price, you can buy the vehicle. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know exactly what you are signing for.
12. Get insurance for your new vehicle
It’s important to insure your car so you’re covered in the event of an accident. There are dozens of websites where you can compare insurance quotes.
13. Remember to get your car serviced regularly
You will want to get your car services periodically to keep it in good running condition. Talk to your dealer or an independent mechanic about a good service schedule, and plan it into your diary.
14. Enjoy your used car!
Now you’ve gone through all the effort of buying a used car, you get to enjoy it! Explore your new home and make the most of your automobile.
Lendbuzz is an online platform providing car loan for international students and car loan for expats in the U.S.
Any questions? contact us for more details