Purchasing a used vehicle can be a major and complex transaction. Therefore, to be on the safe side, you should carefully consider all the aspects of the purchasing process, including financing and the purchase agreement. Additionally, you should be aware of the legal protections available to you in case the deal goes wrong for one reason or another.
You should use the National Crime Insurance Bureau (NICB's) VINCheck tool to find out if the car was reported as stolen and not recovered or as salvage by the insurers working with NICB. You should also run the title check to get the vehicle's history report. The report includes mileage, lien information, past maintenance, accident reports, and more. Dealerships usually provide this information, but if you're buying from a private seller, you should either ask them to provide it or get one yourself.
The website of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles lists title check providers. In the history report, look for words that indicate previous damage to the car, like "flood damaged" or "salvaged." However, this report doesn't reveal everything, so you still need to test drive and inspect for damage.
When test-driving the vehicle, you shouldn't just drive around the block. Instead, you should drive for at least 10 minutes. This will enable you to detect obvious issues with the vehicle. Note that if the test drive is positive, sellers and salespeople may push you to purchase the vehicle. Nonetheless, even vehicles that drive well can still have numerous hidden electrical and mechanical problems, which is why you need a mechanic to assess the vehicle.
Before you buy a used car, you should get a mechanic to examine it and give you a professional opinion on its condition. You may have to pay for this, but many dealerships cover this expense. However, an inspection by a mechanic will save you on costly insurance rates and repairs down the road.
You must first negotiate the price assuming the vehicle is in great condition. Having established a price, you can then have a point of reference if you may need to renegotiate based on the outcome of the vehicle's inspection. Also, when making an offer, you should base it on the vehicle's total cost and ensure that you don't exceed your budget.
In case you agree on the price and decide to make the deal, you should ensure the vehicle's title is in your name. Dealerships usually take care of this step. If you got the vehicle from a private individual, you should go to the local tax office to make a title application.
Finally, if you buy a vehicle from a private individual, you should ensure you pay the sales tax. You can do this at the tax office while registering the vehicle in your name. In Texas, the sales tax is 6.25 percent of the vehicle's SPN (standard presumptive value), or purchase price, whichever is higher.
Importantly, you should ensure your vehicle is adequately insured. The insurance rates vary based on the model, year, features, and insurance carrier.