Top 7 Used Car Buying Tips

If you’ve shopped for a used car recently, you know that tips for buying a used car can be very helpful. It can be difficult to tell who is winning when buying a used car unless you follow a used car buying guide that covers all of the primary money makers and money pitfalls. We’ve collected the top 7 used car buying tips that help buyers win at the used car buying game.

Used Car Buying Tip #1: Research multiple vehicles

We suggest that you select 1-3 vehicles that you would consider purchasing. For example, if you are shopping for a Chevy Silverado, also consider Ford’s F-150 and the Dodge Ram. Or say you are shopping for a Honda Civic. Then, include the Toyota Corolla, and Nissan Sentra in your research. As you research the vehicles, you may find that you can receive many of the amenities of one vehicle for a much lower price on another vehicle. Not to mention, used car dealers will try to sell you on similar cars if the vehicle you originally wanted has been sold. You do not want to negotiate the price of a vehicle before you are familiar with the model!

Once you have decided on the models that you are interested in, you need to develop a thorough understanding of the vehicles, the options available, and how much these models are selling for at dealerships and by private parties. You want to be so familiar with the car that you know more about it than the person selling it to you. Used car dealers frequently carry a variety of different manufacturer vehicles on their lots. A used car salesman is not going to be as familiar with the ins and outs of one particular model as a new car salesman that sells the same model every day. It is your job to know what you are buying and to be able to read between the lines when the salesperson is just telling you what you want to hear.

Several websites offer trade-in, private-party, and retail values for used vehicles. Dealers may tell you that they use NADA pricing and you may have heard that you need the “blue book” value. These two price sources can have wide discrepancies in the numbers that they publish. For a quick appraisal on a particular model, you can visit .com to get a general idea of the prices that you will see while shopping.

The best way to become familiar with different models and their prices is to visit websites like and AutoTrader. They list thousands of used vehicles from both dealers and individuals. The great part about these sites is that these listings include the VIN (vehicle identification number) for each vehicle and simplify your vehicle search. Plus, you can familiarize yourself with the vehicle history reports as you learn more about the models themselves.

While you are researching the vehicles, keep in mind that dealers will post prices that are much higher than they are willing to sell the car for. This leaves room or the dealer to come down on the price during negotiations and leave you with the feeling that you “got a deal”. Some individuals will also do this – especially if they haven’t researched the actual prices paid for the car they are selling.

It is important to remember that not all pre-owned vehicles sold by dealers are the result of a trade-in. Many, many, many of these vehicles are purchased at auctions. So, before you buy a used car from a dealer, check out the average wholesale prices recently paid by dealers for the top selling used vehicles.

Used Car Buying Tip #2: Order Vehicle History Reports

This tip for buying a used car is very important. Yet, so many people don’t think to order a Vehicle History Report before buying a used car. Do you think you are exempt from buying a previously flooded car. Think again. It is estimated that 200,000 cars were damaged in Hurricane Katrina alone. The vehicles that have been “totaled” by insurance companies are then sold to buyers that rebuild vehicles for a living. The cars are rebuilt and sold throughout the nation. Many states require the title to reflect the previous damage. This information appears on Vehicle History Reports sold by companies, such as, AutoCheck® Despite this information appearing on the vehicle history report, some sellers will not be upfront about the previous damage. Read More AboutRead More About Vehicle History Reports

Used Car Buying Tip #3: Get an Car Insurance Quote

It is important to get an insurance quote before purchasing a vehicle. Insurance premiums depend on many factors. Premiums may vary even if you are looking at two vehicles of the same model (based on vehicle options) and insurance premiums can be budget buster. Consider this expense when determining which vehicle you can afford. Fortunately, it doesn’t take very long to receive an insurance quote. You can get an online quote at Esurance within a few minutes. Read More About Insurance

Additional Tip:
The insurance quote may require a VIN (vehicle identification number) in order to accurately quote you. This can be easily obtained from one of the listings on or AutoTrader. Pull the vehicle history report on the vehicle prior to applying for an insurance quote. If the vehicle has a rebuilt title or salvaged title, you will not be able to get an insurance quote on that vehicle. So, select a vehicle for your insurance estimate that has a clean vehicle history report.

Used Car Buying Tip #4: Financing

1. Don't accept financing without first knowing your credit scores and what is on your credit report. This will give you the opportunity to clear up discrepancies, avoid misleading financing tactics, and possibly improve your credit score to get a lower interest rate. makes it easy on buyers and provides all three reports & all three scores in one package. Read More Credit Report Tips

2. Don't accept a dealers auto loan without first comparing interest rates with other banks. This applies whether you are buying from a dealer or an individual. If you are purchasing a vehicle from an individual and will need financing, you will need to apply for a person-to-person loan. Not all lenders offer this financing. MyAutoLoan offers low interest rate person-to person loans and loans to buyers with "bad credit". Some buyers shy away from individual sellers that still have a loan on the car. MyAutoLoan has standard process of handling this type of transaction and walks you through it step by step. Read More Auto Loans

Used Car Buying Tip #5: Vehicle Inspection

Before purchasing a pre-owned car, it is crucial that you have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle on a lift. A vehicle history report will provide documented information about car, but it won't reveal whether an owner properly maintained the vehicle. If the vehicle you are considering is being sold by an individual and they won't lend you the car for an afternoon to have it checked by a mechanic, ask them to meet you (with the car) at your mechanic's place. They may suggest taking it to a mechanic they know. We would recommend not doing this. Unfortunately, they may have the mechanic is their "back pocket" and there is the chance that you wouldn't receive a true assessment. If they resist the suggestion of having it inspected by your mechanic, DON'T BUY IT. Odds are they have something to hide. The low cost of an inspection is definitely worth the money - when you consider the cost of repairing a vehicle that is falling apart.

Even if the vehicle is a "Certified Pre-Owned" vehicle, get an inspection. Not all "Certified Pre-Owned" vehicles are reconditioned like you would expect. "Certified Pre-Owned" vehicles come with a higher price tag - make sure you are getting your money's worth! Check out our Car Inspection Checklist

Used Car Buying Tip #6: Negotiating & Sale

Negotiating the price of a used car: The most important part of the puzzle - yet the step where most people lose the most money. We have dedicated a full page to discussing the negotiating of a used car. Check Out Our Negotiating tips..

Used Car Buying Tip #7: Extended Warranty

Many used vehicles are sold each year that no longer are covered by a factory warranty. Don't leave yourself exposed to costly repairs on a vehicle that you just purchased. Independent warranty companies, such as Smart Auto Warranty, offer extended warranties on used cars at a fraction of the prices charged by dealerships. Whether you are purchasing from a dealer or an individual, get a free quote from Smart Auto Warranty before making a decision on where to buy an extended warranty. Read More Negotiating Tips

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