Every savvy car buyer knows a brand-new car loses value the second you drive it off the lot. When you buy a new car, you pay for the privilege of being its only owner, as well as knowing every detail of its driving and service history. Some drivers are comfortable paying a higher price for that peace of mind, but many drivers would rather keep dollars in their pockets and take a chance on a used car.

Smart used car buyers approach the transaction in an informed way that minimizes the risk of the unknown. You can find tools online that can give you a fair amount of information on the used car you are buying, but you will only see publicly available information. You can take steps before and after the purchase, and when you layer them together, you can confidently approach a used car purchase.

The most important legwork happens before the transaction is complete, as you zero in on the vehicle you intend to purchase. Here are a few questions you can ask before you lock down the deal.

  • Are you working with a reputable dealer? Reputation goes a long way in the auto industry. (Check the reviews!)
  • Does the car come with a third-party inspection?
  • Does the car come with records of its service history?
  • Are you comfortable with the number of miles on the car?
  • Is there evidence of anything that makes you uncomfortable with purchasing the car?
  • Does your dealer offer warranty services?

Once you confidently complete the deal and the car is yours, take these steps immediately after the ownership transfers to protect yourself as the car owner.

Buying a New (Used) Car? Don’t Forget These Critical Steps


Transfer the Cars Ownership

This step will make the car legally yours, so it must happen quickly after the sale. Generally, if you work with an auto dealer, they will take care of this for you.

If you buy a used car through a private sale, the seller will sign the title over to the buyer, who will take this down to the DMV to transfer the car’s ownership into their name. While there, you can also register the vehicle, get new license plates, and pay the required state sales tax. The process will vary slightly by state, so research your state’s DMV website to ensure you have all the proper documentation.

Set up Proper Insurance

Generally, depending on your state and insurance company, there is a short grace period where your new car falls under your existing insurance coverage if you get into an accident on your drive home from the purchase. But your top priority should be to call or visit your insurance agent to add coverage to your new car.

If you don’t have existing coverage, call your insurance company before you complete the transaction so you can pre-purchase an insurance policy that will give you immediate coverage.

Any vehicle purchase is a huge investment that carries significant liability. To protect your investment and yourself, shop around for the highest coverage you can reasonably afford.

Set Up a Service With A Trusted Mechanic

Chances are you have had a used car looked at by a professional before purchasing it. But once the vehicle is officially yours, make an appointment to get a proper service done. The mechanic will be able to take a closer look and do a more thorough inspection. Many problems are far easier to correct if caught early, which can help you avoid hefty repair bills down the road.

Some states even have lemon laws for used cars, so if the inspection indicates that the vehicle is not in the advertised condition, you can return the car.

Your mechanic will also set you up on an appropriate service schedule for your vehicle. Regular maintenance is hands down the most important thing you can do to keep your car running efficiently and help maintain its value.

Depending on the state you live in, you may also need to complete a state inspection before you can register your vehicle. These inspections ensure your car is road worthy and not posing any safety or environmental hazards.

Search for Recalls

By entering your car’s information online with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, you can search for any recalls and determine if any safety-related repairs are needed. The car manufacturer usually covers these repairs, which are essential for your vehicle’s safety. Any vehicle recalls should get immediate attention.

Get a Professional Cleaning

Many dealers will take care of this step, but a professional cleaning will erase any evidence of previous owners, including germs left behind by people or pets. Having a new (to you) car that is sparkling clean will also help you feel like a million bucks as you show it off.

Knowing you’ve made an informed purchase and taken all the necessary steps to make the car yours, you can enjoy your new ride with the confidence that a used vehicle helped you save money for other financial goals. If you are looking for used car dealers in Utah, nobody has a better reputation than TJ Chapman, especially when it comes to rebuilt title cars. Not local? Ask about our remote shipping services.


Buying a New (Used) Car? Don’t Forget These Critical Steps