A Modern Day Fairy Tale

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5 Simple Tips to Buying an Older Used Car

**This is a sponsored post. All thoughts are 100% my own.

These days, having a car can truly be an essential, especially when you have kids! Even for those like myself who prefer NOT to drive, you don't often think about how much you really rely on having transportation until you no longer have it. You don't realize the freedom and flexibility that it can provide.

A few months ago after having been without a vehicle for nearly two years, I finally found myself in a position that I was able to purchase a vehicle again. But... already having one monthly car payment for my husband's vehicle and a very tight budget leftover, I knew that financing was NOT going to be an option. I needed something that I could pay for in cash and be done with it. Are you in the same boat? Perhaps you've likewise been without a car due to finances, or perhaps you've totaled your vehicle and you need an inexpensive replacement. Whatever the case may be, today I am sharing some tips I've learned in the process of buying a (very) used car.

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  • Set realistic expectations. When I was on the search for my vehicle, my budget was VERY small. I knew I was to pay in cash and hoped to spend no more than $1500, but as close to $1000 as possible. That's not a lot for a car. Ideally, I wanted something that would still allow me to be able to make the 3-hour-drive to visit family but at the most be reliable enough to get me to where I needed to get to around town. Still, I knew that I wasn't going to find a PERFECT vehicle. With my budget, I knew it would be older, I knew it might have some cosmetic and minor other issues, and I knew that I wasn't going to get my top pick of features. I did end up getting lucky and finding a good running vehicle that had everything my family needed (lots of storage, stow and go seats and even a DVD player that needs some rewiring!), but certainly is not the prettiest to look at... but had it come to a car that wasn't as much my taste but did the job and fit my budget, I was okay with that. I think before the search even begins, you have to know realistically what your budget will allow you and what sacrifices you might need to make.
  • Sell your existing vehicle for whatever you can. Now, in some cases- as with myself- this isn't going to be an option. I did not have an existing vehicle to sell. If however you are replacing your old one, sell it for whatever you can to help offset the costs. Broken down cars can be great for parts, or to someone who likes the challenge and has the skills to rebuild. Even totaled cars can be purchased for parts and more. You may not get much, but every little bit will give you that much more to put towards a more reliable vehicle.
  • Shop around. Whether you're searching used car lots or online resources such as Facebook marketplace, look around for a bit to get an idea of what vehicles in your area are going for. Again, this will help you know what to expect to be able to get within your budget, but can also give you an idea on if you're getting a good deal or should look elsewhere.  
  • Take someone who knows cars. When it comes time to go look at and/or test drive a vehicle, bring along someone knowledgeable about vehicles to check it out. I personally know nothing about vehicles so I would have been at a complete loss as to what to look for or what questions to ask. In buying a used vehicle- especially an older and cheaper one- we don't have warranties and those other protections we would have with something newer, so we want to be as sure as possible that we're getting something reliable. My husband is a mechanic so he knew what to look for- he could see if there were minor issues that he would be able to fix himself and which issues would be too much work and money to warrant the cost. Being married to someone with the tools and ability to fix small issues certainly opened up more options for myself, but even just knowing what to expect can make a big difference. 
  • Don't be afraid to negotiate. This is another reason those previous tips are important. If you know what similar cars are going for and/or what issues are present, you can better know if the price is fair and how to prepare a counter offer. Some may be firm in the price, and you can then choose if it's worth it or better to move on. Others will be open to the idea and looking to sell quicker for whatever they can, allowing you to get a better deal. You'll never know until you ask. 

If you're shopping for a used car, I hope these tips will help you get the best car possible without breaking the bank. It can certainly be nerve-wracking to purchase an older vehicle, but having a car that's 100% paid for, free and clear and a way to get around when needed is an amazing feeling. 


  1. For some people, buying an used car doesn't seem too appealing, however, in some cases with limited budget, it's the only viable option for personal transportation. Let's not forget about the Bus transportation Washington DC routs, which cover the main and some secondary streets, so it shouldn't be a problem to go from one place to another.


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