back to articles | December 31, 2018 | Dale Peterson

Categories: Tips & Insights For Car Buying Buying & Selling Cars Vehicle & Buying Research

Used Car Buying Tips

Tips for buying a used car:

What are some tips for buying a used car?

There is a wealth of information about used cars on the Internet: enter "used car" as the key words and you'll find additional information on how to buy a used car, detailed instructions for conducting a pre-purchase inspection, and ads for cars available for sale, among other information. Once you've narrowed your car choices, research the frequency of repair and maintenance costs on the models in auto-related consumer magazines. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Auto Safety Hotline (1-800-424-9393) gives information on recalls.

A used car can be one of the most expensive purchases many consumers make. Therefore it's important to know these car buying tips.

Used Car Buying Tip 1:
Think about what car model and options you want and how much you're willing to spend. Do some research. You'll be less likely to feel pressured into making a hasty or expensive decision more likely to get a better deal.

Used Car Buying Tip 2:
Check publications at a library or bookstore, or on the Internet, that discuss used car prices and features.

Used Car Buying Tip 3:
Shop around to get the best possible price by comparing models and prices in ads and at dealer showrooms.

Used Car Buying Tip 4:
Plan to negotiate on price. Dealers may be willing to bargain on their profit margin, often between 10 and 20 percent.

Used Car Buying Tip 5:
Because the price is a factor in the dealer's calculations regardless of whether you pay cash or finance your car -- and also affects your monthly payments -- negotiating the price can save you money.

Used Car Buying Tip 6:
Keep looking if you don't see what you want on the dealer's lot. This may involve a delay, but used cars on the lot may not be exactly what you want -- and that can raise the price. However, dealers often want to sell their inventory quickly, so you may be able to negotiate a good deal if an in-stock car meets your needs. Negotiations often have a vocabulary of their own.

Used Car Buying Tip 7:
Before you start shopping for an auto, you'll need to do some research. Spending time now may save you serious money later. Think about your driving habits, your needs, and your budget. You can learn about car models, options, and prices by reading newspaper ads, both display and classified or by going online to a site that offer extensive content (such as our auto research page).

Used Car Buying Tip 8:
Check out the auto's repair record, maintenance costs, and safety and mileage ratings in consumer magazines or online. Look up the "blue book value", and be prepared to negotiate the price. Use your online service provider to research, finance and buy if they provide extensive content and information for the consumer. Ask for the car's maintenance record from the owner, dealer, or repair shop.

Used Car Buying Tip 9:
Buying from a dealer? Look for the Buyers Guide. It's required by a federal regulation called the Used Car Rule. Make sure all oral promises are written into the Buyers Guide. Note that The Used Car Rule generally doesn't apply to private sales.

Used Car Buying Tip 10:
You have the right to see a copy of the dealer's warranty before you buy. Warranties are included in the price of the product; service contracts cost extra and are sold separately.

Used Car Buying Tip 11:
Test drive the auto on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic. Make sure you have a good feel for the auto and how it handles.

Used Car Buying Tip 12:
Have the auto inspected by a mechanic you hire. There are also a number of independent services that offer pre-purchase auto inspections.

Used Car Buying Tip 13:
Check out the franchised dealer with local consumer protection officials. Check out the dealer and your lender to see if they have been approved by BBB and have authorization to post the BBB seal.

Used Car Buying Tip 14:
Research your used car purchase carefully. If you buy an auto "as is," you'll have to pay for anything that goes wrong after the sale.