So you're thinking of getting a used vehicle in the Lone Star State. Great! Used cars are often affordable, reliable, and overall great purchases. That is, if you know what you're doing. After all, you don't want to be taken for a ride and end up with a moody car, right? Once you read our top tips for buying a used car in Texas, you'll know what to expect.
1. Run a Title Check on the Vehicle
When you find a car you're interested in, run a title check. This simple document will tell you if the vehicle has had significant damage in the past. For example, if it got into a crash and needed serious urgent repairs, the report will say that.
You need to know the VIN (or vehicle identification number) to get a title check. On most cars, the VIN is written on the driver's side of the dashboard, near the windshield. Plug the VIN into any of the authorized title check providers and that's that!
Running a title check costs just a few dollars and can spare you from many headaches and expensive repair bills down the line.
2. Go for a Test Drive
If you're spending money on a used vehicle, why not take it out for a spin? You're entitled to test drive a used car—at a dealership or with a private seller—and it's not only fun but also useful. Does the car run well? Is it easy to drive? Better yet, do you enjoy driving it? These are questions only a test drive can answer, so go for it.
3. Ask a Mechanic to Check It Out
Another smart thing to do before committing to a used car is to have a mechanic look at it. Ask a mechanic you trust in your area if they could examine the car and give you their professional opinion. Is it a good purchase, or should you walk away and look at another vehicle?
Of course, this comes with a price (although many dealerships may cover the costs for you). However, you can end up saving money on repairs and costly insurance premiums by avoiding faulty vehicles.
4. Negotiate a Price and Close the Deal
Found a car you like with a clean bill of health and sound title check? Awesome! Now comes the fun part: making an offer. Usually, you can negotiate the price of the vehicle. Don't get swayed by tempting offers of "low monthly payments." Instead, focus on the total cost of the vehicle. Whatever you do, make sure to stay on budget.
5. Apply for a New Vehicle Title
Once you've shaken hands, it's time to put the vehicle in your name. If you're buying a car or truck from a dealer, you don't have to worry about this step—it's already taken care of for you. But if you're buying from a private seller, take notes.
Head to your local tax office (preferably with the person selling you the car) and submit a title application. You'll need to show:
Your driver's license (or another form of photo ID)
Proof of your liability insurance
The signed vehicle title
A filled-out Form 130-U (also known as Application for Texas Title and Registration)
6. Pay the Vehicle Sales Tax
Lastly, if you're buying a used car from a private seller, you need to pay a vehicle sales tax. You can do this at your local tax office, at the same time you register the vehicle under your name.
In Texas, that means you have to pay 6.25% of the car's purchase price or standard presumptive value (SPN)—whichever is greatest. Find out the SPN of your used car here.
Double Up on Your Savings
Buying a used car is a good way of ensuring you get a ride at a price you can afford. Staying within your budget is a wise idea, but you can go even further.
Why not impress your car insurance provider by taking an online defensive driving course? You'll learn all about how to stay safe on the road, even when other drivers aren't careful. Plus, your provider will know you're serious about being a good, responsible driver and could slash your monthly payments—so you can save for things you enjoy.