How to Shop for a Used Car

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Buying a used car can be a tricky process. While you are probably getting a used car to save yourself some money, you don’t want to end up with a piece of junk. You want to make sure that you are getting a car that will run properly and that you won’t have any issues with. Unfortunately it can be hard to know which car to buy. There are a lot of people out there who are trying to get rid of their junk car for as much money as they can. If you are in the market for a used car, use the tips below to ensure that you are getting a good deal and that you are protected from any scams.


  1. Know What You Can Afford – Take a look at your budget and see what you can fit it when it comes to car payments. The general rule is to not go above twenty percent of your take home income. Be sure that when you are shopping for a used car, you keep this amount in mind. Even if you find your dream car, if it is well over your budget, it will only cause you a headache in the future.
  2. Compile A List – Search the internet for the type of cars you are interested in. If you are definitely going for a used model, look at cars that are at least a few years old. Think about what you are looking for in a vehicle along with what it may cost. Compile a small list of potential cars that would suit your needs. It’s always good to do your research before you buy so that you have a rough idea of what you will be getting.
  3. Check Prices – Once you have the cars on your list, it’s time to see how much they will cost you. There are several resources on the web that will help you to value a specific car. Find out what the true cost of this type of car will be, and keep it in mind when you start doing your shopping.
  4. Look Around – Now that you know what kind of car you might like, and the relative price of it, you can start looking around for places that might sell it. Look at local dealerships, online, or from private sellers. Most dealerships will have their cars listed online so you don’t have to drive around. See if any of the listings fit what you had written down. If they do, get a vehicle history report on the car so you can see if there is anything major wrong with it. If the report checks out, you can then contact the seller to get a closer look at the car.
  5. Take A Test Drive – Going for a test drive not only lets you see if you like the car, but can tell you if there is anything wrong with it. If you get in the car and the brakes aren’t working very well, you know there is something wrong with the car, for example. On the test drive, try to simulate how you normally drive. If you take the highway to get to work, test drive the car on the highway. You want to make sure the car works in the conditions that you are going to be using it in.
  6. Inspection – If the car checks out, the next step is to have it inspected before you buy it. Most sellers will be fine with you taking the car to a mechanic of your choice to have the car looked at. If they give you a problem however, this may be a sign that there is an underlying problem with the car that they don’t want you to know about.
  7. Negotiate – If everything is good and you like the car, now is the time to try and get a good deal on it. Based on your research you should have a good idea as to what the car is worth. Start off your negotiations with a somewhat low offer that is in the area of the value. Know before hand what your maximum spending amount is, and leave when it reaches that number. Remember that you don’t have to buy the car, and that walking out is your strongest tool. Don’t let any sales person try to push you around or sell you on extras. Know what you want to spend and try to get it.
  8. Get The Car – Once you have reached a price, it’s time to close the deal. If you’re at a dealership, go over the contract carefully. If you are working with a private seller, make sure they sign the deed over to you before you pay. Once all the paper work is done, you can drive your new car home, happy with how the process went.


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