A Buyer’s Guide to Used Cars

May 7th 2016


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It’s estimated that in United States there are over 250 million used cars. Buying a used car can be a risky endeavor if you are unprepared. A used car may have hidden faults, and negotiating with used car salespeople can be stressful. Here, you can find out how to buy a used car the right way.

Determine Your Requirements and Budget

Before you begin your used car search, you need to think about your requirements and budget. This should include both the things you would like to have and those you need. For example, do you need to have a lot of room in your vehicle or is performance more important? In the case you may need an SUV or station wagon. If the purpose is primarily to travel from work and provide your family with transportation, the right used car will be different from one for a young person selecting by performance and appearance. The more detailed you are with your requirements, the easier it will be to decide between vehicles.

Where to Buy a Used Car Online

You are not limited to buying from a car dealership. There are a number of places online where you can buy a quality used car. Here are a few of them:

Auto Trader

One of the things that makes AutoTrader stand out from its competition is its search function. AutoTrader makes it very easy to search for specific terms. For example, if you are looking for a car with automatic transmission and ABS braking, AutoTrader can show you a selection of vehicles of different models and makes that meet these criteria. This is very useful if you don’t know exactly what type of vehicle you want, but you know what it needs to do.

eBay Motors

eBay Motors has a very user-friendly interface. Like AutoTrader, eBay Motors makes it easy to search. Another advantage of using eBay is that you can see sellers’ feedback and determine their reliability. Feedback also gives car sellers an incentive not to hide faults in the vehicle.


Craigslist is one of the best places to look if you want a bargain vehicle. While the prices on Craigslist are often very good, you need to be careful about who you deal with. You must inspect the car in person and not commit to a purchase online. However, if you are looking for a local deal, it is difficult to beat Craigslist.

How to Buy a Used Car From a Dealership

With prior planning and by negotiating carefully, you can find a good used car for a reasonable price at a dealership.

Visit at the End of the Month

If you are buying a used vehicle from a dealership, wait until the end of the month. Selling a vehicle is a commission job. If the salespeople don’t make a sale, they don’t make money. Generally, the dealership will have a bonus program with additional incentives for the number of sales made in a month. By waiting until shortly before the close of the month, you can be in a stronger negotiating position.

Visit Multiple Dealerships

While shopping for a used vehicle can be an arduous experience, it is important to be persistent. You don’t want to sign at the first dealership that you visit. You should visit at least three dealerships so that you can compare prices, models and customer service. You also want to deal with the salesperson who is friendly and isn’t directing you toward one single vehicle too much.

Questions You Should Ask At The Dealership

Where was the car bought from?
What do you include with the price?
Has the car ever been involved in an accident?
Is there a return policy?
Can I take the vehicle for a test drive?
What price would accept if I paid in cash?

Check the Prices with a Guide

Two useful resources for finding more about used vehicles are the Kelley Blue Book and Edmund’s New Car Prices. These include costs for most used cars and optional additions. You can usually buy these guides online or at your local bookshop, or you can borrow them from the library.

Checklist Of Things To Look For Before Buying

  • Are there any rust spots or paint bubbles?
  • Does the interior of the vehicle have any strange smells?
  • Does the engine start cold first time?
  • Is there any rattling or loud noises?
  • Are there any chips in the windscreen?
  • Does the color on all of the body panels match?
  • Do the tires look worn out or have cuts?
  • What is the depth of the tread of the tires?
  • Do the doors lift on their hinges when opened?

Remember, the key to finding the right used car is determining your exact requirements before you begin your search, looking at multiple vehicles and dealerships, and using an independent guide to verify the price. If you follow these steps, you can find a great used car at an excellent price.



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