When you’re in the market for a used car, you’re definitely not alone. If you look at private and dealership sales, more than 45 million transactions happen each year. Finding that perfect car for you can be a challenge with so many options. To help prepare you, we’ve created a good rule-of-thumb list to help to help with the buying process. If you need more help, there are other objective sites that can give you the information you need. TureCar, Edmonds, and Kelly Blue Book are a few of our favorites. Let us begin.

Do you know how much car you can afford?

As a general rule, if you have to get a loan to pay for your used car, you shouldn’ get one with a payment of more than 20% of your net take-home pay. If you’re on a budget, it would be wise to make it 15%. Most people don’t realize this when they buy the car, but used vehicles take more money to maintain. A timing belt here, new tires there, or an unexpected electrical issue can really set you back. Aside from the maintenance, you may have to spend more on gas, get emissions checks each year, and keep a reserve for things that come up. If you don’t have a reserve and get hit with a big auto expense, an online title loan may be a good option.  You should read our comprehensive title loan guide to learn more.

Do your research and build a good favorite list online.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that high-end brands such as Acura and Toyota are quality cars. However, these cars will cost more than some of the median cars like Chevrolet and Hyundai. If you are looking for a good overall cost of ownership, consider a variety of manufacturers. We’d suggest narrowing your list down to 3 or 4 brands and models that you like. If you are looking for a newer (less than 4 years old) used car, considered certified pre-owned vehicles. They have warranties backed by the manufacturers and have gone through rigorous inspection.

Search for prices.

Within a reasonable distance, you’ll want to gauge market pricing for your short-list of options. Just like the stock market, there are a variety of factors that go into your local used car market pricing. If it’s possible, pick a time toward the end of the month, quarter, or year to make your purchase. In the case of dealerships, they’re usually trying to make their sales numbers around this time. You can snag a good deal with objective price information, great timing, and luck. We think TrueCar is a great way to test your local market pricing.

Make contact and narrow down your selection.

Now that you’ve done your research online picked your preferred makes and models, built a list of local sales, gauged pricing ranges, it’s time to go out on the battlefield and make contact.

Get a vehicle history report.

Getting a car history report is an essential part of the process unless you’re buying from a parent or someone else where you know the complete history of the vehicle. Many dealerships offer this for free, but if you’re buying from a private seller and serious about the car, go ahead and buy one for the vehicle. CarFax is the defacto source for history reports.

Take it for a test drive.

If all goes well with the history report, ask to take the car for a test drive. You’ll want to make sure it’s the car for you, and that it’s free from problems that could hit you later on down the road. Here’s a comprehensive list of things you should look for when you test drive your prospective car.

Get a car inspection.

As another necessary step in the process, make sure to take your car to a local mechanic and have it inspected. Some of the more popular mechanics will usually offer this service for $20 to $50. Like a CarFax, this is a must-have. The only exception is certified pre-owned vehicles. These have already gone through a rigorous inspection and have warranties.

Get a good deal by negotiating effectively.

Now that you’ve really narrowed down your selection and are ready to buy, it’s time to put all that objective price information you gathered earlier to work Know what your maximum offer is and don’t deviate from it. You’ll want to make an initial offer less than that, but still within a reasonable margin based on your local market. Show the seller objective evidence. If you can make a deal at your maximum or below, you’re in good shape. If they want more than the data supports, walk away and go to another option on our short-list.

Do the deal!

Once you’re ready to make the purchase, you’ll need to fill out a bill-of-sale and do the transaction. You’ll want to make sure you check your state and local laws for insurance, emissions, etc. so you’ll know what has to be done ahead of time. You’ll need to make sure the seller gives you a car title (sometimes known as a pink slip). The seller will have to sign it over to you.

Once you’re done with everything, pat yourself on the back! You’ve gone through the entire process. Once you get on the road with your new car, you might have an unexpected expense hit you along the way. Just remember that In & Out Title Loans is always here to help with title-secured short-term loans.