How to Buy A Used Car

There are ways to save thousands of dollars when buying a car. One of them is to buy a used car.  You’re far from alone if you are looking into used cars next time you are in the market to purchase a new (or new-to-you) vehicle. In fact, over 40 million used cars exchange hands each year.  

By choosing a used car over a new car, someone else will absorb the depreciation costs that new cars suffer from the moment they leave the lot.  Of course, there is a certain level of risk involved in purchase a used vehicle, but if you do the proper research prior to test driving a used car, you’ll find one that makes you (and your wallet!) very happy.  


Budgeting for a Used Car

The older and more miles a car has, the less expensive it will be. That is common sense. But, make sure you account for wear and tear that is inevitable on older vehicles that can lead to more repairs down the road.  Find a balance between the initial cost and how much flexibility you have for maintenance repairs before determining a budget for your used car.


To help determine how much you can spend on a used car, total up your monthly bills and compare to your monthly income.  This will give you a ballpark idea of what your monthly payment can be, and will be very helpful when it comes to negotiating your deal.

Finding the Right Used Car

Once you determine your monthly budget, you can start looking for vehicles within that price range.  Starting on the lower end of your budget will provide you with more savings and potentially more flexibility in options a used car dealership can provide, like an aftermarket warranty.

When looking for a car, consider your wants, needs, and what kind of car will fit your lifestyle. Do you carpool the kids to soccer practice? Do you need something fuel efficient for a long commute? Will you need optional 3rd row seating? Does your location require all-wheel drive, or can you stay with a forward-wheel drive vehicle? These kinds of questions are all things to consider when in the market to purchase a vehicle.  

Inspecting a Used Car

All used cars have a history. Maybe it was someone’s first car and they drove it throughout high school. Maybe it was the car the proverbial grandma drove to the farmer’s market every Saturday morning.  Regardless of the make or model, each car has a history, but it’s up to you to find out as much as you can about the vehicle before making a purchase.

Request all the documents you can from the seller to prove the car has been maintained properly and thoroughly inspected.  To get an idea of the vehicle’s accident history, request a CarFax report from the seller. Most dealerships will provide each used car with a comprehensive CarFax report.  


Be sure to test drive the vehicle before making any decisions to get a feel for how the car handles, if there are any weird sounds, or if the car has that “new again” feel.  To ensure the safety of the used vehicle, have it inspected by an independent mechanic. Not all problems will show up on a report, so it is always a good idea to have a set of eyes check it out.  If the seller tries to convince you that the car doesn’t need another inspection, take warning. Sellers may try to hide a recent accident or recent damage that hasn’t made it onto a written report yet, so take it to a mechanic to be thoroughly inspected.  If the car doesn’t look, smell, or feel right, run, don’t walk, away!

Financing a Used Car

Before you even set foot in a used car dealership, have a basic understanding of what your financing options will be.  Familiarize yourself with lending terminology and the process will be much smoother. It will help you to come pre-approved so you know what your potential interest rate and monthly payment will be, and chances are, the dealership will be able to match that or even get you a lower rate.  You can apply at several banks and other lenders before even walking into a dealership. Click here to read more about financing a used vehicle.


Negotiating the Deal

“Talking numbers” might be your least favorite part of the car-buying process – and you’re not alone.  It can be uncomfortable to negotiate on prices and add-ons. It will help to stick to your budget and decide what your absolute maximum spending limit will be.  This way you can be talked into paying a higher monthly payment than you can afford.  In order to negotiate a deal, you’ll need to be educated on what the car you’re buying is worth – and you can check on reputable sites like NADA. Databases like  Kelley Blue Book are a bit outdated and do not account for the value of the car on the current market, so if you use KBB, know it could be a very different number than the actual value of the vehicle you are purchasing. 

Keep in mind that used car dealerships have a little less flexibility in negotiating on the price of a vehicle since they are not being sold at original market value.  So, instead of trying to talk down the price of the car, try negotiating a warranty or aftermarket add-on. You’ll have better luck getting a lower price!

Call Trust Auto today and start your car-buying process.