How to Find a Great Used Car


Sure, buying a used car can save you money.  But if you don't know what you're doing, you could inherit somebody else's headache.  In this section, avoid buying a lemon by finding a great used car with these easy-to-follow tips.

Tip 1: Find the right used car

First up, choose the best used car for you and your needs.  Determine how the car will be used, who will be driving it, what features you find most important, and how much you can afford to spend.  Research information online, including used car listings in your area, and don't forget to compare similar makes and models.  You may find comparable vehicles with the features you want at more affordable prices than the initial prospects on your used car list.

Tip 2: Check used car prices

Check used car prices online, before you sign on the dotted line, to ensure the seller's asking price is fair.  Input the year, make and model of the car, as well as its mileage and optional equipment to arrive at a final pricing report.  Be sure to refer to the applicable condition description to determine what its fair market value is.  Don't be afraid to negotiate price if you think the seller's asking price is overinflated, and definitely don't be afraid to walk away if the price (or the car) isn't right.

Tip 3: Consider CPO

Certified pre-owned cars are used cars backed by rigorous inspections and manufacturer warranties.  Typically, the inspection process involves more than 100 different facets of evaluation to ensure car buyers are getting a mechanically sound vehicle, while the manufacturer's guarantee offers added peace of mind should the vehicle break down or need repairs.  While manufacturer-backed CPO cars usually cost more than standard used cars, consider buying CPO if you're concerned about buying a lemon.

Tip 4: Get a vehicle history report

Vehicle history reports can highlight a wealth of background information about a used car.  For example, the car you're interested in buying could have been severely damaged or declared a total loss in the past.  What's more, it may have been damaged by fire or flood, or the odometer may have been rolled back.  The type of information typically contained in a vehicle history report includes title information, ownership history, and accidents and service background information.  It's always a good idea to obtain a used car vehicle history report before you sign on the dotted line. 

Tip 5: Get a used car inspection

While a vehicle history report offers an added layer of protection when it comes to buying a used car, it's not foolproof.  It's always your best bet to have a certified mechanic inspect any used car you're considering buying, to avoid hidden and costly problems a vehicle history report may have missed. A used car inspection, by a qualified mechanic, is essential in determining whether the car currently needs, or will soon need, costly repairs.

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