Simple Tips for Buying a Used Car


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We reached the end of life on another vehicle. This past week we had to go car shopping, which is something I always dread. I hate the task of shopping for a car, buying a car, selling my old (usually broken down) car, and dealing with a car payment when I didn’t have one. Since I’m extremely frugal (some might say cheap), I shop for used cars to save money. Buying used can be tricky, risky even, but almost always more affordable. As long as you don’t buy a dud. Here are a few tips for buying a used car.


Some tips and tricks for buying your next used car from a dealership. Sometimes you can find a great car for thousands less than you would pay buying brand new, and you can often get a lot more amenities to go along with it. Don't forget to check out all the safety features, like airbags and car seat installation.



Find a Dealership Near You

Running a quick search will pull up a list of locations for you to consider. If you have an idea of which car you might want, you can use the search within to locate specific makes, models, and price range. will deliver you a list of dealerships, and you can begin your research on the ones you plan to check out. Remember, new car dealerships usually have used cars as well and most dealerships will have their inventory listed online. Do a thorough check on Google and Yelp to see what others have to say about their own car buying experience at these locations.You want to investigate the reputation of the dealership before you even look at their cars. If they have quite a few bad reviews, avoid going there.


Consider The Cars That Will and Won’t Work For You

If you are going to shop used, then you may find yourself in a “beggars can’t be choosers” situation, especially if you are in immediate need of a car. First, make a list of the things you MUST have in your next car. For example: power locks and windows are a must for me. I was also very serious about the safety features: air bags and seat belts being as protective as possible. We have kids and drive a LOT. If you have little ones, it’s also going to be high on your list of priorities to have the safest car seat installation options in your new (used) car. Make sure you read the Car Seat Check ( page at to find reviews of cars and their car seat installation systems (including the LATCH system available in most cars now). If the cars you find don’t have your important features, don’t even bother. Just keep looking.


Locate a Few Cars You’re Interested In

Once you have found a few car dealerships you plan to visit, check online to see what they have to offer in your price range. Make a list of the cars you want to consider. Are you looking for a larger car to have space and storage? Would you rather have a smaller vehicle to save at the pump? Maybe you are determined to drive a hybrid. Try to have 2 or 3 cars you are interested in when you step foot on each lot.


Do Your Research

Grab your interest list and begin researching. Use for car values, for research and reviews, for recalls, search for real user reviews, and fully acquaint yourself with each of the cars you plan to look at look at so the dealer can’t fool you once you are there. You want to walk in knowing what works for you, what doesn’t, how much each car is worth, what people who have these cars think about them, and what has been recalled and should be replaced.


Know Your Limits On Each Car

For every car you are interested in, know what you’d like to pay for it and what you max price is. Just as you are going to try to take as much off the sticker price as you can, the dealer is going to be trying to keep as much on as they can. Set a limit for each car and do not go over this. If it doesn’t work out, it isn’t the right car for you. One thing is certain, this world doesn’t not have a shortage of cars. Don’t get tricked into paying more than you want to for fear that you won’t find another car as great as this one if you leave now. Don’t be afraid to leave if things don’t go the way you envisioned. Move on to the next lot.Sometimes a dealer will call you and agree to your terms if you come back and buy, but don’t hold your breath,


Ask Important Questions

  • What warranties do you offer?
  • Have the recalls on this car (if you’ve done your research, you know what they are) been taken care of yet?
  • CanĀ  I see the CarFax report?
  • I have a loan with my bank for x% financing, can you beat that?
  • How did you come to have this car?


Some Don’ts

  • Don’t let the salesman pressure you, or try to make a fast deal. Allow yourself time to think things through. Even if that means sleeping on it.
  • Don’t feel obligated to purchase a car. Any car.
  • Don’t worry about test driving multiple cars, you want to find the right one, and this is their job. You are not inconveniencing them.
  • Don’t settle.
  • Don’t buy out of your financial ability.
  • Don’t buy based on looks alone.
  • Don’t commit to a car without viewing all the information first. If there is a car on the lot that wasn’t online, take a moment to use your smart phone and conduct your research right there, before you commit to anything.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away if you can’t get the price you want. You WILL find a car, keep looking for the one that fits all your criteria.
  • *personally, I would say don’t buy private party unless you are a mechanic, or bring a good one with you. But remember, you won’t have any warranties and you may not be able to finance*


There is a bit more work to put in if you are buying a used car. If executed properly, this can land you a great car, at a great price. Car shopping is time consuming, but taking your time to find the right one can save you a lot of headache down the road. We applied these techniques when we bought our car last week. We ended up choosing a newer version of the car we had, and are very pleased with our choice. The first lot experience didn’t go so well. The saleswoman didn’t even introduce herself, used all the “I can’t go that low, I’d be losing money” talk, and didn’t end up calling back. At the second lot we got a great vehicle, from a trusted dealership, and saved thousands versus buying new. Wishing you the best that you may have good luck in your search, too!


Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this post, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Read full disclosure policy here.

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