Leave No Stone Unturned as You’re Shopping for a Used Car

Leave No Stone Unturned as You’re Shopping for a Used Car
  • Opening Intro -

    If you've ever wandered onto a car lot unprepared, you've probably regretted the experience.

    With so many makes, models, and options to choose from, not having an idea of what you actually want and how you will pay for it can cause a lot of frustration and kill an afternoon.


There are few things in life that compare to the feeling of buyer’s remorse. When buying a used car, it’s all about doing your research, knowing where to shop and using the technology available to you.

Follow these tips and you’ll come out smelling like roses:

Choosing Your Car

Trust me on this one. Don’t begin used car shopping with a definite make, model and year in mind. Consider these factors, but don’t let them limit you early in the process. First, come up with a list of must-haves, wants, extras and don’t-wants. Categorize year range, body type, transmission type and any extras that may be offered, such as window tinting, cruise control and keyless entry.

After realizing your specific needs, search online for vehicles that fit your selection. If you do have a certain brand in mind, research similar makes to compare before choosing your car. Have about three cars in mind that you’d be interested in seeing before heading to a dealership or seeking out an ad for a privately owned vehicle.

Where to Shop

With an assortment of dealerships and private parties selling used cars, there is no shortage of options for those looking to buy a previously owned vehicle. A few years ago, this wasn’t the case, and buyers were forced to shop at traditional used car dealerships or “buy here pay here” types of dealers. Research dealers nearby but don’t forget to regularly check online communities or classified sections such as Craigslist. With private parties, you only have to pay retail sales tax, and the seller is more likely to have routine maintenance records and give you an idea of how the car runs.

Bargaining for a Price

How much you pay for your car will depend heavily on how much research you do before you start bargaining. You should go to a dealership with a price in mind of what you are willing to pay, and what you know the car is worth. Use vehicle valuation tools such as Kelley Blue Book to help you know a fair price. Before the Internet, car buyers relied heavily on a salesperson’s knowledge and honesty. Now, the playing field is leveled as car buyers and dealers rely on the same information.

Quality of the Car

There are some things a visual inspection and test drive won’t tell you, especially if you aren’t familiar with cars. If available, look at service receipts and obtain a CARFAX report to review the vehicle’s history. Even if it is money out of your pocket, always have the car inspected by an independent mechanic who can tell you what you are getting in to. While a worn seat and pedal will tell you a car has seen many miles, it won’t tell you if the car has been fixed, flooded or even totaled. Always ask to see the car’s title. In the words of Larry Webster from PopularMechanics.com, “Treat salvaged cars like they’re on fire: Run.”


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