So you’ve come to a point when it’s time for you to get your very own car. How exciting! But where do you even start? There are so many options out there. New or used? Coupe or SUV? Leather or cloth interior? Luckily, we live in an age when there is a ton of information to make smart decisions and not get ripped off.

A car is one of the biggest purchases you will make as a teen or young adult. They cost exponentially more money than a brand-new smartphone or laptop. Knowing what your needs are and doing as much research as possible will make you a much more satisfied buyer in the end.

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Why Buy a Used Car?

While a new car is great for your peace of mind, the vehicle depreciates as soon as you drive off the lot. Cars lose about 20 percent of their value during the first year of purchase and continue to decrease in value.

Later in your career, if driving a new, reliable car is more important to you and you can eat the cost, then circle back. But for now, you want the best value for your money.

If you’re buying a depreciating asset, at least buy it after the first owner took the big hit.

The price you pay for your car is not the end of your car-buying experience. It’s really just getting started. You have to factor in car costs like full-coverage insurance, fuel, how much you’ll be driving the car, taxes, registration, maintenance of the vehicle, and an extended warranty in case something goes wrong.

There is a mountain of costs associated with buying a car, so saving money upfront is only the beginning.

How to Buy a Used Car

There are a few important factors to consider and steps to take in order to make sure that you can snag a good deal on a car that works well for you:

  • Consider what’s important for you to have in a car
  • Ask lots of questions in order to get a good deal and avoid future problems.

What’s Important to You

If you’re an adventure junkie who likes to go off-roading or snowboarding in the mountains, you may want to consider a 4×4 all-terrain vehicle. Guess what, though? These cars cost more money.

If having a sleek, sporty, two-door coupe is more your style, you’re going to shell out more when buying car insurance, especially as a younger driver considered to be more at risk of getting into an accident.

Assess these potential extra costs beforehand by calling your insurance company and asking about pricing and discounts. Insurance companies often give low mileage discounts to those who drive less or to students who meet a minimum GPA requirement.

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As you think about what you’ll be doing with most of your days, you will start to better assess your options. A long commute should make you more conscious about getting a car with good fuel economy.

If you drive friends and family around in your car or even want to make extra money by driving for a ridesharing company like Uber, then maybe you want to factor in passenger legroom and get a sedan or SUV.

Also, if it gets really cold where you live, how about paying a little extra for heated seats? Being comfortable and happy may be worth the extra cost.

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Ask Questions

Find out as much from available sources about the car that you plan to buy. Don’t feel shy about negotiating a great price — there is room to haggle in every used car deal.

And always question why someone is selling his or her car in the first place to identify potential problems. Buying a car from a private seller means buying it as-is. So what you see is what you get, and once you’ve handed over the money, there’s no going back from it, even if the engine goes out the next day.

You can save money by paying for small, up-front costs like doing a vehicle history report and getting a certified mechanic to check the vehicle. Having documents to prove whether a car has passed a smog test or whether the registration has been paid is part of doing due diligence on your big purchase.

AutoCheck, an Experian company, gives you 60 days of unlimited reports for just $45. When test-driving vehicles, unlimited reports are a small expense in the grand scheme of things.

After doing this, your negotiating power will be better, since you’ve inspected the vehicle, test driven it (a must), and assessed the value against other sellers. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you have any bad feelings. There are plenty of used cars on the market, so you’ll find one that’s right for you.