Guide to buying a used car

Guide to Buying a Used Car

When looking for a new vehicle, one of your options is to purchase a previously owned car. Used vehicles offer many benefits to the new owner, including the ability to buy more vehicle for your money. These tips from our guide to buying a used car can help you find the perfect vehicle.

Why Buy a Used Car?

There are several reasons why purchasing a used vehicle makes sense. Some benefits you will enjoy when you buy a used car include:

Minimized Depreciation

When you purchase a brand-new vehicle, depreciation is very high during the first three years of ownership. When you purchase a vehicle that is three years old, there will be slight depreciation each year after.

More Buying Power

Before you begin shopping for a vehicle, you most likely have set a budget on how much you wish to spend. When you decide to purchase a used vehicle, you can get more for your money in terms of size, amenities, or luxury status compared to buying new.

Negotiation of Prices

You have more room to negotiate a used vehicle’s price than a brand-new one. The added flexibility gives you the advantage of getting a better vehicle within the price range you have set.

Lower Fees

Many states will base their vehicle transaction fees on the age of a vehicle. When you purchase brand new, the state fees are much higher than if you purchase used.

How Old Should a Used Car Be Before it is No Longer a Good Deal?

The best way to buy used cars for the most value is to seek out vehicles between three and five years old. At this age most vehicles have not had excessive wear and tear, the mileage is lower, and the overall depreciation on the vehicle has stopped.

Every year older than five years will increase the likelihood of vehicle problems. You will need to be very diligent about having the vehicle’s history checked and having it looked at by a mechanic when buying a car that is six or more years old.

What Are The Best Used Cars To Buy?

Under $10,000:  the leading car is the Nissan Versa
Under $15,000:  the top vehicle is the Toyota Corolla
Under $20,000:  the leading vehicle is the Honda Accord

The top used vehicles in each class by vehicle type include:

  • Compact SUVs – Toyota RAV4
  • Crossover SUVs – Ford Escape
  • Electric Cars – BMW i3
  • Hybrid Cars – Ford Fusion Hybrid
  • Large SUVs – Chevrolet Traverse
  • Minivans – Dodge Grand Caravan
  • Pickup Trucks – Ford F-150
  • Small Cars – Hyundai Elantra
  • SUVs with 3 Rows – Ford Explorer

Guide to buying a used car

Where To Buy a Used Car?

Every used cars guide should include the types of places to purchase a used vehicle and what you should expect from each purchase.

Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Lot

  • This is the preferred place to purchase a used vehicle. Certified pre-owned vehicles are usually sold alongside new vehicles because they have been certified as being in near-perfect condition.

Pre-Owned Dealership – Major Brand

  • Some larger dealerships will have a used car lot to resell trade-ins. If the lot is not interested in these cars, they will not bother having them certified. You will get a lower price but risk more wear and tear on the car.

Pre-Owned Dealership – Private

  • The vehicles found on these lots will vary. Some lots are dedicated to high-quality used vehicles, others not so much. You will have to be more careful when purchasing from these lots to ensure you are getting a good car and a good deal.

Private Seller

  • Private sellers offer you a chance to negotiate one-on-one for the best deal. However, you will want a vehicle history report and have it mechanically checked before making the purchase.
How to Buy a Used Car From a Dealer

The process of buying a used car from a dealer is not as hard as you may think. Knowing when to buy and what to expect will help you secure the best deal.

  • You will always find better deals at the car lot during July – October and December. These months generally have the fewest sales, so lots are looking to make deals.
  • Purchasing at the end of the month will often help you get a better deal. The car lots or sales reps have a quote to meet each month, and they are more willing to negotiate at the end of the month.
  • Check the website before going to the lot. Many car dealers will have online discounts unavailable at the lot. Some will also allow you to get pre-approved for financing online, which can save you a lot of time at the dealership.
  • Negotiate. See f the dealership is willing to negotiate on the price. Find out about trade-in values and ask about any specials they are offering.
  • Make the purchase. Once you have negotiated a great deal, all that is left is purchasing the vehicle.
What to Look For When Buying a Used Vehicle

Before purchasing, make sure to check the following:

  • VIN History Report
  • Repair and Maintenance Records
  • Check All Amenities To Ensure They Are Working
  • Check Mileage
  • Make Sure Windows and Door Locks Work
  • Check Condition of Interior
  • Check Condition of Exterior
  • Check Condition of Wheels
What to Do After Purchasing a Used Vehicle

You should schedule routine maintenance if you have not purchased a certified pre-owned vehicle. Have all the fluids checked or changed, have the tires and brakes checked, and have it detailed so that it is nice and clean for you.

When Purchasing a Vehicle

Always remember to run a VINsmart report on any used vehicle before making a purchase.  A VINsmart report runs a complete history on the vehicle including whether it has ever been reported as stolen, involved in a major accident, or listed as a totaled vehicle.

VINsmart reports will also give you a registration history and mileage at registration.  It reports any significant incidents related to the vehicle, such as being involved in a fire or flood.

When purchasing a used vehicle, the best way to ensure you make a good purchase is to know the vehicle’s complete history.


To get started with VINsmart, click here.

1 thought on “Guide to Buying a Used Car”

  1. Thank you for pointing out that you should look at their website before going to the dealership. My sister is looking to buy a car, but it’s been a long time since the last time. She’s looking for some advice, so I’ll be sure to pass this on to her to try out.

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