How to Shop Used Cars

how to shop used carsThere are many advantages to purchasing a used car in lieu of a brand new vehicle. A good used car is often just as reliable as a new car. Buying used means saving hundreds or thousands of dollars, without suffering the immediate loss in value that happens to new car buyers when they drive their new vehicle off the dealer’s lot. Used car buyers also save money on car insurance. Simply enter your ZIP code into the FREE car insurance comparison tool above to start saving now!

Before you make a decision, it is important that you understand how to shop for a used car. Understanding how to shop for a used car ensures that you make the best decision for your wallet and vehicle needs.

Determining Your Needs and Budget

Before you start shopping for a used car, determine what kind of car you need. Once you know what kind of vehicle you need, you can determine the car that fits in your budget. Like most major decisions, it is a good idea to come up with three prospective cars that appeal to your tastes. Once you’ve made a wish list, determine which car best fits your needs. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often do you plan on driving the car? Is the car for daily commuting or occasional trips?
  • Do you need the car for carpooling or transporting others? How many seats do you need? Is a 2-door or 4-door better for suited for your needs?
  • Do you need additional storage space for hauling luggage or equipment? Is trunk space adequate, or should you choose a hatchback or station wagon with folding rear seats?
  • Where are you planning on parking your vehicle? Do you have the space for a compact, mid-size or full-size vehicle?

Next you must determine if the car you want fits into your budget. If you have money saved, you may have enough to purchase a used car outright; otherwise you must get a loan from a bank or the dealer and make monthly payments. There are also other budgetary considerations. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your monthly gas budget? What kind of fuel efficiency do you need from a vehicle?
  • Can you pay for repairs if your car should break down? Does the car you want require expensive parts?
  • If you cannot buy the car outright, what kind of monthly payments can you afford? Can you afford to put money towards a down payment?
  • Do you have a credit score that would allow you to get a loan? What type of interest rate will you be facing?


Research is important to assess your budget against the type of car that you want to buy. It is important to note that there are three things that affect the value of a used car.

  1. The number of miles on the car
  2. The car’s condition
  3. The popularity of the car’s make and model

shop used carsIt is important to compare car brands and features during your research phase. Read what past consumers have said about the vehicle and its performance. Determine how long the vehicle you want tends to last. Determine if the type of car you want has any recalls in its past or major complaints from consumers.

Research is perhaps one of the most important phases of shopping for a used car. If you do your research and weigh your options, you will be more informed when you go to look at a used car with a private seller, or when you step onto the used car lot. Research keeps you from making financial mistakes or purchasing a lemon.

Visiting a Dealer or Shopping Online

There are many advantages and disadvantages to buying a used car from a private seller or going to a dealership. For some buyers, a dealership is a stressful, high-pressure, overwhelming situation. However, used car dealers present buyers with many different choices, allowing buyers to pick and choose their optimal used car. Dealers are also open to negotiations, where a private seller may not negotiate.

On the other hand, shopping through a private seller reduces the amount of pressure, but puts you on the spot. Often you have to decide on then and there if you want to purchase the vehicle. Conversely, when shopping through a private sellers, you can search multiple listings online and often find the exact car you want at the right price.

No matter which avenue you choose to shop, consider these two important factors before settling on a vehicle:

  1. Used car dealers offer customers a guarantee on some of their vehicles in the form of certified used cars. Certified used cars come are under manufacturer warranty, proving that they have passed inspection and are in top condition. Certified used cars often cost more than those without certification
  2. It is important to obtain the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, before proceeding with a purchase from a private seller. The VIN number informs the consumer of any major accidents or salvage titles in the vehicle’s history. It also tells you if the seller has tampered with or attempted to roll back the odometer.

shopping used carsIt is important to take your time and never appear too eager in front of the salesman or private seller. Inspect the vehicle for rust spots or interior damage and ask to test drive the car. Listen to the engine, especially when starting the car and test the brakes. If you do not know much about cars, ask someone with more knowledge to accompany you, to make sure you make the right decision and pick the best used car for your money.

To save money on car insurance, be sure to enter your ZIP code into the FREE comparison tool below!

References: 10 Steps to Buying a Used Car How to Shop for a Used Car