Your first step should always be to reflect on what you'll want on your checklist. Make a list of all the important things you want from a vehicle, as well as all the important things it needs to do. A soccer mom may need extra seating for carpooling and great deals of room for sports equipment, while a bachelor or bachelorette might enjoy a smaller sportscar for zipping around town and easily parking in tight spaces.

Second, consider money; what is your price range? A typical rule-of-thumb is to set your highest budgeted amount at 20 % of your take-home pay. For example, someone making $50,000 should designate $10,000 as their maximum purchase price. When making this decision, you must take into account the cost of owning the car, paying for gas, and your other associated bills. You may adjust your budget accordingly.

While your budget is essential, so is your credit. If you plan on taking out a loan when you start visiting used car dealers, your credit score will play a role in what you can afford. If your credit is good, the bank may want to work with you to lower your interest rate. If your credit is bad, the APR may be higher. Many of the larger used car dealers work hand-in-hand with banks to ensure they can assist people, regardless of their credit score, in obtaining the best possible loan rate and payment plan. Obviously, you may independently obtain your own financing before making an offer on a car. The choice is yours.

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Next, check the vehicle history on a site like Carfax.com. If the vehicle checks out, schedule a test drive of the car, and try to test it on roads like the ones you would typically encounter during your day-to-day routine. Ask any used car dealers you visit for records. After considering all the aspects of the car and whether it fits your budget, make an offer to a trusted salesperson.

While negotiating, don't hesitate to take time to think about counter-offers, use the bathroom, or eat a meal. There should be no rush when making this decision, and the salesperson should help you feel comfortable.

Consumers tend to be wary of car dealers. The common consensus is that salesmen set out to deplete pocketbooks and offer disadvantageous prices to their customers. This assumption is far from the truth, however. Dealers expect and welcome their customers' negotiation, and they look forward to striking deals that allow both sides to prosper. The negotiation ball is in the consumer's court. It's up to the consumer to know ways to negotiate to find the best outcome possible. The following are three essential tactics to keep in mind when sealing the deal over a vehicle.