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How to Purchase a Pre-Owned BMW

bmw front grill

BMW offers a wide selection of luxury cars. In many circles, owning a BMW is a sign of success. While most balk at the price of a brand new BMC car, pre-owned models provide a viable alternative if you want to own a BMW, but do not want to pay the price of owning a newer model. By keeping certain factors in mind, you can own a BMW while staying within your budget.

Method 1 of 1: Buying a pre-owned BMW

Materials Needed

  • Computer or laptop
  • Local paper (if checking the classifieds)
  • Paper and pencil

When shopping for a pre-owned BMW, you have a wide selection of sources from which to choose. Whether you plan on searching online, in the local paper, or going to a dealership in person, keeping certain things in mind will make your shopping experience easier and help you find the exact used BMW you want.

Step 1: Decide on a budget. Set your budget before starting your search for a pre-owned BMW. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, you can start searching for the car of your dreams, hopefully with many of the features you prefer. Make sure to keep in mind additional costs, such as sales tax, the annual percentage rate (APR), and an extended warranty to help protect your investment.

equifax site information for registration

  • Tip: Before heading down to the dealership, find out what your credit score is first. This gives you an idea of what type of interest rate you qualify for. It also gives you a better footing when negotiating with the sales person. You can find out your score from sites such as Equifax for free.

Step 2: Determine where you want to shop. Luckily, you have a few different sources to choose from, including:

  • Auctions, both private and government, which usually include a large inventory of luxury vehicles. The government sells any seized vehicles at auction due to the costs associated with storing them and to help fund their operations.

  • Certified pre-owned vehicles have been inspected and then refurbished before being certified for resale. The advantage of a certified pre-owned vehicle is that they come with extended warranties and special financing offers to make them more appealing to buyers.

  • eBay Motors offers an increasingly popular way to buy a used car. While the inability to check out a car before buying can seem a bit strange to many, you can offset this by only buying from sellers with good feedback and by only bidding on auctions that allow you to back out if the car doesn't check out once you purchase it.

  • Private sales, such as through classifieds in the local paper or on websites such as Craigslist give buyers access to individuals who are just looking to sell a single car. While this method requires additional steps on the buyer's part, such as getting a vehicle inspected by a mechanic before buying, it also does not involve the fees that dealerships tend to tack onto a car sale.

  • Superstores, including such companies as CarMax, offer vehicles for sale nationwide. When searching their website, you can narrow down your choices by category, including make and model. This makes the whole shopping experience that much easier as you can zero in on the type of car you want to fit your budget.

  • Warning: When buying any used vehicle, beware of sellers who want money in advance, especially money transfers. This is usually a scam on such sites as eBay, as the seller receives your money and then quietly disappears, leaving you with an empty pocketbook and no car.

Step 3: Research fair market value. Check the fair market value of a pre-owned BMW through various sources. The amount depends in large part on vehicle mileage, age, and trim level.

Some of the more common sites for checking the market value of used cars include Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, and CarGurus.

In addition, look at car reviews for the makes and models you're interested in to see what automotive professionals have to say about a particular vehicle.

Step 4: Go car shopping. After you have determined how much you want to spend and how much a typical pre-owned BMW is worth, it's time to start car shopping. You should incorporate a selection of different sources to find the best deal that fits within your budget. This includes looking for used BMWs with the features you want. Some features are more expensive than others, and ultimately you must decide whether they are worth the extra cost, especially if it drives the car price above your budget.

car fax vehicle report

Step 5: Perform vehicle background check. Perform a vehicle history check on any BMW you are interested in using sites such as CarFax, NMVTIS, or AutoCheck. This process will reveal if the vehicle has been in any accidents, suffered any flood damage, or shows any other "ding" on its history that might keep you from buying it.

Step 6: Contact the seller. Once you find a pre-owned BMW at a price that fits in your budget and is free of any negative items on it vehicle history, it is time to contact the seller. You can do this over the phone or via email. When conversing with the seller, verify the information in the ad, and then, if satisfied, set up a meeting so you can look at, test drive, and have the used BMW checked out by a mechanic.

  • Warning: If meeting a private seller, ask a friend or family member to go with you. This allows you to meet the seller safely.

Step 7: Inspect the car. Once you have met the seller and are assured they are legitimate, it is time to inspect the pre-owned BMW. Check the car for any inner or outer damage. Also, start up the car and listen and look at the engine.

Take it for a test drive to see how it runs on the open road. In addition, take the car to a trusted mechanic while you are on your test drive. They can inform you of any problems and how much it should cost to fix them.

Step 8: Negotiate with the seller. Any problems you or the mechanic found that the seller did not list in their ad becomes potential bargaining points on your part. Approach with the stance that you have to get the problem fixed, unless they offer to do so before selling it to you, and so the cost of such repairs should come off the asking price of the vehicle.

  • Tip: Tires are often overlooked when inspecting a vehicle before buying. Find out how many miles are on the tires from the seller, as new tires can add an extra expense, especially on luxury cars such as BMWs.

bill of sale document

Step 9: Close the sale. After you and the seller have agreed on the final price, you can now proceed with finalizing the sale. This includes signing the bill of sale and the title, unless some sort of financing is involved. Once this is done, the BMW is yours, and you can drive it home.

  • Warning: Make sure that you read through any paperwork thoroughly before signing. Dealerships like to work things into a contract through the small print. If you have any questions about something, ask before signing. If you do not agree with a stipulation in the contract, and the dealer will not accommodate you, take your business elsewhere.

You can find a quality pre-owned BMW as long as you do your research and stick to your budget. Part of the process is having a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle for any unforeseen problems areas. Use a YourMechanic certified mechanic to help you determine the overall condition of a used BMW before you commit to buying it.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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