Home Car Tips 5 Tips for Painlessly Buying a Used Car

5 Tips for Painlessly Buying a Used Car

by Frank
how to buy a used car

Purchasing a used car can be a hazardous experience. You never know what the real history of a vehicle is, nor do you understand what the seller might be trying to pull. Take action to protect yourself and be sure that the vehicle you buy is sound. Here are some possible measures you can take, including specific problems to look out for.

See also: 4 Ways to Buy a Cheap Used Car and Not Get Screwed

How to Buy a Used Car

When you’re purchasing a used car, you are in for a bit of potential hassle. If you opt for the wrong car, you’re going to end up getting an old jalopy that could hardly make it to the closest traffic light without stalling. If you are careful however, you may end up getting a used car that is almost like something new off the showroom floor.

Get Financing First

Unless you are paying in cash, chances are you’re going to want some kind of financing for your used car purchase. This means you want to have a day to examine your fiscal situation to find out how much you can afford to spend on a used car. Next, you’ll have to decide whether to finance your vehicle through a bank or through the dealership.

Most traditional advice suggests going with a bank for funding, instead of a used car dealership. Dealers have the ability to offer some discounts when you fund through their offices, but you should always read the contract they offer before you register. You never know what type of additional clauses they tack on. Then again, if you have bad credit, a bank may not provide you with a loan. You’ll need to make the decision based on your own financial situation; no online information will provide you the answer you require.

Picking the Right Used Car

how to pick a used car

First thing you should look up is what type of used car you’re after. Don’t go to a dealer lot and wander around before a car looks good; select a make and model before you go to the dealer the first time. How can you do this? You should pick up a copy of the latest Consumer Reports for Automobiles. This resource will give you a terrific idea of the rough value of various makes and models, in addition to the common flaws. You can even check the Kelly Blue Book for appropriate values of vehicles you are interested in researching.

You should also gather local resources. Normally, major metropolitan areas will have their own local car publication found in grocery store lobbies and other public locations. Newspaper classifieds and other local advertising boards are a good resource as well. You need to be sure that the make and model of used car you want is actually available in your area.

At this stage of the game, time is your ally. If you’re in desperate need of an automobile to get to and from your work, you’re likely to wind up paying more for that vehicle than you otherwise could. In case you’ve got the time, you have the luxury of waiting for a fantastic deal. With time on your side, you can select your perfect make and model, and then wait for you to appear in the marketplace.

Related: Why Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?

What to Watch For

As soon as you’ve reached the point where you are investigating particular vehicles, you will need to understand what to look for in a used car. Here are a few issues you may observe when dealing with unethical sellers and used vehicles.


Uneven wear on the tires. That means treads that are more worn on one side of the tire than the other and may indicate a potential issue with the suspension or alignment of the vehicle. It can also simply indicate a tire or two were replaced for one reason or another. Tires that are completely bald will have to be replaced, including a cost in addition to your purchase.


Bring a little fridge magnet with you when you inspect a vehicle. It should stick if the panel is original and whole. If a magnet does not stick, then some type of body-filler has been used. Be careful of hidden damage that is not reported. It’s worth noting that newer used cars don’t always have full sheet-metal bodywork. Do your research on Google first so you know what the car body is composed of.


Pop the hood and trunk and look for over-spray. Over spray is paint on parts that shouldn’t be painted. It indicates that the car was repainted at some point, which might be hiding damage you can’t see.

Radiator Fluid

Does the fluid have oil or foam in it? If so, leave the car behind. All these are signs of a head gasket problem or other engine problems which may be very expensive to fix.


Occasionally, people will roll back an odometer to make a car look more attractive. In most cases, they forget the other signs of obvious wear, such as the pedals. If there is more damage to these parts than the mileage would indicate, be cautious.

If the car passes all these initial inspections, take it for a good test drive. How does this feel? Does it vibrate? Do the lights on the dashboard function? Be aware of odd noises and activities from the steering, engine or suspension while your driving.

Vehicle History Report

As the promotion goes, ask them to show you that the CarFax. You will need the VIN — Vehicle Identification Number to look up the Car history. Write down this number. You should find it in many places around the car. Ensure these numbers match. You can also use it to search the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for any general warnings about the make and model.


You have your finances; this is a hard limit on how much you can pay. Now’s the time to negotiate the price . Take note that used car dealers will often add on charges in addition to the purchase price. Personal sellers rarely attempt to hide extra fees, so they are a better choice. You need to possess the Kelly Blue Book value, in addition to other negotiation leverage that is available.


As soon as you’ve negotiated cost, it is time to seal the deal and drive away in your new vehicle. If you took this advice to heart, you now have a high quality used car which could last you for many enjoyable and trouble-free years.

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