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The Guide to Buying a Used Car

Updated: December 15, 2023

If you’re in the market for a used car, you are not alone. There are millions of used cars exchanged annually. With such a large number of used vehicles on the market, how do you go about choosing the right one for you? This guide will provide you with information to help alleviate some of the stress associated with buying a used car.

1. Know How Much You Can Afford

Before you start shopping for a used car, it’s important to know how much you can afford. Utilize our car affordability calculator to help you determine this. Also, get pre-approved for vehicle financing before you visit the dealer to save time and money!

2. Research the Make and Model

Picking the right make and model is essential. There are many resources available that can help you determine the best car for your specific needs. Sources such as Edmunds Reviews and Consumer Reports are great places to start.

Couple using a laptop and calculator
Toy car on top of coins

3. Do a Price Check

Before you begin shopping, do some research to determine the market price of the vehicles you like. A car model-pricing guide such as Kelley Blue Book is a great resource to help you accomplish this. To get an accurate estimate, make sure to include these features when utilizing a pricing tool:

  • Year, build, and model
  • Vehicle options
  • Mileage
  • Condition level

4. Examine the Vehicle

Examining a vehicle is essential. Make sure to thoroughly examine the exterior of the car, as well as the tires, engine, suspension, brakes, and vehicle’s steering components.

5. Take it For a Test Drive

Before you purchase a car, take it for a test drive. A vehicle may appear pristine on the outside, but a test drive could uncover hidden issues. Plus, you want to make sure that you like the way the car handles.

Person giving a thumbs up inside a car
A couple signing papers at a car dealership

6. Check The History Report

Never buy a vehicle without checking the vehicle’s history report. Reviewing the history report helps to identify odometers that have been rolled back, salvaged titles, and even accident history.

7. Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate

Utilize the information you gathered during your research as ammo at the dealership. Compare the dealer’s asking price to the average market price you found online. In many instances, you will see that the seller is asking more than the market price of the vehicle. Remember, it’s okay to walk away if you are unable to negotiate a price that makes you comfortable.

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