Get the big bow ready: 4 tips for buying a used car

(BPT) – If you’re tempted by steep discounts offered by car dealerships at the end of the year, you’re not alone. Car sales rev up especially during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when dealerships may see sales jump 78 percent over the first part of December, according to, a leading online resource for automobiles.

But buying a used vehicle can be a daunting task when you consider all the variables – the price, vehicle history, cost of gas, cost of insurance and more.

These tips can help you during the car-buying process:

1. Understand what you can afford. Look at the overall cost. The purchase price of the vehicle doesn’t tell the whole financing story, Pollard says. Don’t forget to factor in the average cost of maintenance, monthly insurance, fuel costs and additional warranties along with your monthly payment.

2. Get pre-approved before stepping foot on the dealer’s lot. Once you know what you can afford, be clear with the dealer on how much you can spend and stick to it, says Heather Pollard, vice president of Auto Experience at USAA.

3. Have an expert check under the hood and into the car’s past before driving off the lot. An independent mechanic can give your potential car a thorough exam. In addition, a Carfax report will help you understand the vehicle’s maintenance and accident history.

“You want to ensure you have a reliable vehicle and that six months from now it isn’t going to be in the shop or stranded on the side of the road,” Pollard says.

4. Don’t settle for the extended vehicle warranty proposed by the dealership. Extended vehicle protection can be beneficial for a used car purchase, but make sure you look at other options available, not just what the dealer offers you.

“Members don’t often realize USAA offers extended vehicle protection,” Pollard says. “The dealer is going to offer it, and it can be pretty expensive.”

Find the car you want with the USAA Car Buying Service.

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