Top Tips for Buying a Used Car


5 Tactics You Can Use During the Used Car-Buying Process

Buying a used car can be tricky, especially if you’ve never done it before. You may have the feeling that you’re overlooking something important or that you’re not getting the best deal possible. You may even have trouble finding the right car for you that’s within your budget.

Rest easy. We’re here to help. By using the following tips and tactics, you will not only find the used car of your dreams, but you will also get it for a price that you can afford. Utilize the following information the next time you start the used car-buying process.

Tip #1 – Set a Budget and Stick with It

One of the big pitfalls with buying a used car is paying more than what you planned on. The best way to avoid this is to set a ceiling on how much you’re going to spend. For instance, if you have $15,000 to spend on a used car, it’s in your best interest to only look at cars that are $14,000 or less.

“Why not the full 15,000?” you may ask. When shopping for used cars, it’s always a good idea to have a buffer for things like sales tax, registration, repairs, and other fees that may hit you once you’ve purchased the vehicle.

Tip #2 – Do Your Used Car Shopping Online

The beauty of used car shopping these days is that you can do the majority of it from your smartphone or personal computer. You can kick off your search by Googling “used cars near me” or a similar term. This should bring back numerous used cars sold by private sellers and used car dealerships in your direct vicinity.

By applying filters to these searches, you can then whittle down the selection based upon the price of the vehicle, the body style, the drivetrain, or other relevant attributes. This should make finding the one or two used vehicles that look like a good fit much easier and quicker than going from used car lot to used car lot in person.


Another benefit of shopping for cars online is that you will be able to contact the seller directly via email or phone to ask questions about the vehicle.

Tip #3 – Determine Dealership vs. Private Seller

During your searches, you’re probably going to notice that private sellers offer the best deals on used cars. Although that may be tempting, what you should keep in mind is that private sellers advertise their vehicles in as-is condition. This means that you get what you see, and if the vehicle has a malfunction or breaks down on you, you’re responsible for it. So, if you’re buying from a private seller, make sure they provide you with documentation on the vehicle’s most recent inspection. Otherwise, you may be purchasing a vehicle with a laundry list of issues.

On the other hand, dealerships are much better about preparing their used vehicles for sale. They usually will get the vehicle up to date on things like oil changes and other routine maintenance before they put the vehicle on their lot. The drawback is that their sticker prices tend to be a little bit higher and there are some additional fees for working with them. However, it might be worth it for the additional peace of mind knowing that your used vehicle was serviced right before you got it.

Another big advantage of working with a dealership is that most of them will accept a trade-in of your current vehicle and apply that value to the purchase of your used vehicle. Private sellers won’t do that.

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Tip #4 – Be Thorough When Test Driving

Always be thorough when test driving a used vehicle, especially if you’re looking at one being sold by a private seller. Make sure to test drive it at low speeds through a residential area as well as high speeds on the interstate. You’ll also want to make sure you take it through both left-hand and right-hand turns as well as driving it in reverse. Finally, make sure to inspect the vehicle’s lights, windows, stereo, seats, features, and instrument cluster to ensure everything is in working order. You don’t want to drive away only to find out that the vehicle’s AC is on the fritz.

Tip #5 – Try to Negotiate

It’s no big secret that most used car sellers list their vehicles for a little bit more to make a profit. Not many people list their best and final offers on a used car, so use that knowledge to your advantage with a little negotiation. For example, if someone is listing their car for $10,000, try to get them down to $9,000 to see if they accept the deal.

If they take it, then you just saved yourself $1,000 on a car purchase. Worst case scenario, they decline your offer, and you have to pay full price for the vehicle.

Get Started Shopping for Used Cars

There’s never been a better time than now to shop for a used vehicle. There are plenty of used sedans, compacts, and SUVs on the market that you can get for a drastically reduced sticker price. You can kick off your search by Googling “used cars near me” or “used car dealerships near me.”

Remember to use our five tips when shopping and going through the evaluation process. These tips should save you a lot of time and a lot of hassle.