Many people are purchasing used vehicles and with good reason! The money saved can go towards more important things like family and education. However, buying a used car from a dealership can be a bit scary for new buyers. If you find a lovable car at a dealership, don’t shun away just yet, dealerships aren’t that frightening. Once you find that car you’ve been looking for, there are a few things that will make your experience a lot easier on your mind and your wallet.

First and foremost, always remember that you are the customer. The customer is the one shopping and the one who controls the whole deal. If you don’t spend, the buyer is out of the money and ends up being the loser. With that in mind, it’s also notable that a seller is out to make money. It can be overwhelming to buy a used car but if you keep yourself calm and remain in control of the deal, the power is in your hands.

The process begins when you decide upon a car make and model; make it a good one, because ideally you’ll have it for awhile. Grab a notepad and pen and jot down every last detail about that vehicle’s potential flaws and problems (you’ll need this later on). Also, it is absolutely necessary to find the true market value of your vehicle (if you don’t know where to look, many websites can help you with this, just use your favorite search engine to find them). Along with the true market value, write down the trade in value, as this is what the dealerships usually buy their vehicles for. Once you’ve completed your research on the vehicle, you are ready to begin the buying process.

Before you head out to the dealership, grab a friend to come with you. Remember the old saying, “Power in numbers”? This applies here. You will be a psychological powerhouse going in to this. People manage their time more efficiently, they are more cautious and most importantly they are more confident when they are in groups rather than alone. With your friend alongside for the trip, bring your notepad you used earlier and you also have use for that pen again too.

When you arrive, approach your selected vehicle if it’s out on the lot; the salesman will almost always come out to you. Don’t do their work for them and come to them. By making them approach you first, it shows that you are looking out for yourself and that you are not gullible and easily taken advantage of.

While out on the lot, this is the perfect time to do some one-on-one inspection. Check over your research notes; this is the best time to determine if the car has any related issues that other cars of the same sort have. Check each body panel in relation to other panels to see if all are aligned properly; this can help determine if panels have ever been removed due to collisions. Also note the color of each panel; if a panel is slightly different in color, it’s possible it has been repainted for some reason. Check the undercarriage of the car for rust, holes, exhaust leaks and any leaking fluids. Once you have checked over the exterior, make sure the interior checks out as well. Look for carpet stains and tears in the upholstery. Look for missing or damaged trim pieces; if you have found any flaws thus far, it’s a good idea to notate them on your notepad. These notations will be a great bargaining tool later on. Start the engine up and look for any warning lights. Release the hood latch and check the engine itself. Look for oil stains anywhere, listen for any ticking or knocking sounds; either of these can indicate damaged gaskets or internal issues that can be quite costly down the road. Generally, if something sticks out, be wary. Cars are engineered to run rather efficiently so if a sound, smell or noise seems out of place, it probably is. Finally, don’t be afraid of cars with higher mileage. Their mileage can make great bargaining points and they may be strong-running cars if they’ve made it so many miles. As is with any purchase, research is absolutely crucial and will allow you to know what condition the car should be in and what it should be worth.

By now, a salesman has approached you. If not, have your friend go in and request one while you wait with the car. The salesman will almost always attempt to befriend you and gain a level of trust so you may think they are on your side. Ignore this, it is a selling tool. Remain impersonal and do not use small talk but be polite. This is strictly a business transaction for you and for the salesman. They will most likely ask if you are ready to buy the car today if a deal can be agreed upon. Do not show them your level of interest but let them know that you are in fact interested. Your next step is to ask for a Carfax report or some sort of documented history. If they have one, great; if not, don’t worry, use it yet again as a bargaining tool, since you are taking a risk at buying the car. All that’s left inspection-wise is to test-drive the car. On the test drive, pay close attention to the car’s steering, taking note if it is aligned-properly and that the power steering, if any, is operational. If the car passes your inspection, you are ready to buy! Well, assuming the price is right.

With your notepad in hand, show the salesman every detail of flaws you may have found and write down what you would like to pay for the car. This is important: lowball too much and they may not take you serious anymore. Give them a fair offer below what they are asking, using your notations and bargaining techniques to justify yourself. The worst they can do is tell you no, but rather, they will more often than not either accept it or counter-offer you with something slightly higher. If you can not come about a deal you like, don’t be afraid to walk out. Sometimes a dealer will try to call your bluff and get you to bite on a high price. Hopefully, you can agree on a fair price for a solid vehicle. If so, thank the salesman and agree on the price. All you have left is to decide how you will pay. Remember, you are the buyer; the power is in your hands, not theirs.