5 Tips for Finding a Quality Used Car

by Alexa Mason · 4 comments

You’ve been thinking of getting a new-to-you car for a while now. After all, you’ve been spending more in maintenance and repairs for your current car than what it’s worth.

You start looking around, but you just can’t find a good car in your price range. Do you fork out more money than you planned, or do you continue your search?

This is the dilemma my brother has found himself in. Over the past year, his 1996 Ford Ranger has had an increasing number of problems. He’s at the point where finding a new car is going to be more cost-efficient that repairing his old truck.

But where should he start?

How to Find a Quality Used Car

1. Set your budget

When it comes to car shopping, it’s easy to get out of hand. When you’re fed up with your current vehicle, you start daydreaming about that perfect car that never has any problems, and your imagination can go wild.

Though you might want to spend less than $10,000, without a firm budget, you could end up getting talked into leasing a brand new car.

This is why it’s so important to set your budget and stay firm. You know what you can afford to spend — so don’t be swayed into making a huge purchase you’ll regret.

2. Start looking in advance

Finding a quality used car is no easy feat, so you need to allot yourself plenty of time to do so.

Start looking for your replacement before your current vehicle bites the dust. You’re going to have to look at several cars before you find a great deal, and it could take months. Check Craigslist, car lots, “Buy here pay here” places, and local newspaper listings. You never know where you’ll find that gem.

If you only follow one of these tips, make it this one. Don’t hurry: take it slow and really weigh your options.

3. Research, research, research

Different cars are good for different things.

For example, if you’re looking for good gas mileage and a car that can handle a lot of use, then a Honda or other small car might work. If you live in an area where winters are harsh, you probably need four-wheel drive.

Narrow down your search to specific models or makes, then begin researching the advantages and disadvantages of your picks. This way, you’ll know what to check for before handing over the cash.

4. Get the car looked at

Before you buy, bring someone with you who knows cars. Have them test drive the car and look for any potential problems. You can never be 100% sure you’re getting a good deal, but having the car looked at by a mechanic will greatly increase your chances.

5. Negotiate

No price is set in stone — and this is especially true when it comes to used cars. Sellers normally put a markup on their listings so they’ll have room to negotiate. When you find a suitable car, haggle on the price.
What are your best tips for finding reliable used cars?

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  • Mark Daniels says:

    Excellent article on buying a used car. There are a number of good used cars, you just need to know how to find one. I would vouch for tip #4 and #5. I had to bring my brother in to know if a car was running great and what the issues were. If I didn’t, I would be paying more for auto services done to it than I originally paid for. Once you know the pros and cons, you can work with the owner to pay what is fair for both sides.

  • Jen Bonanno says:

    Great post! I agree with Adrian, negotiating is usually the hardest part. The dealers want to get you off track by talking about monthly payments, trade-ins, rebates, and incentives, but in reality all you need to focus on is the final purchase price. If you are able to negotiate the final purchase price to a something reasonable, then those other factors can be worked out after the fact.

  • Adrian Collins says:

    Sounds good. The most challenging step for me here is negotiating. I am not so good at it but I have already had 3 used cars for fair price 🙂 Luck is one thing needed.

  • I definitely look online a lot to determine the type of used car I want. In particular I see what these cars later in life look like. If they have a reputation for holding up, then I will search for a specific one in my area.

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