How to Buy a Car

Finding a Used Car

You will find an assortment of makes and models on a used car lot.
You will find an assortment of makes and models on a used car lot.
Photo courtesy Taken by Scott Jacobs

There are several places to locate and buy a used car:

  • an online car shopping website like CarsGenius
  • a used car dealership
  • a superstore dealership that specializes in used cars -- like CarMax or Hertz
  • many new car dealerships also sell used cars
  • online and print classifieds

Keep in mind that classified listings are used by both dealers and individuals to sell used cars. Some dealers even post their used cars on used car Web sites. Person-to-person transactions through people you know, or via online and print classifieds can be a good option if you want to avoid a dealership. According to Car Buying, no matter what option you go with, if you do decide to purchase a used car, there are four tasks that will increase your odds of success:

  1. Have a mechanic put the car up on a lift for a full inspection and to check for damage -- anything that might indicate a previous accident or possibly flood damage.
  2. Run a Vehicle History Report to get a full history of the car. You can get a Vehicle History Report at It will include everything you need to know about the car including: if it was ever salvaged, stolen or recalled the number of previous owners if it ever failed inspection if someone tried to create a fraudulent odometer reading
  3. Never sign an "As Is" statement. Many used car dealers will mix that in with the other paperwork you'll be asked to sign. As with anything that requires a signature, READ BEFORE YOU SIGN. You should have at least 30 days to make sure the car is in good condition. If you sign an "As Is" statement, once you drive the vehicle off the lot, anything that goes wrong is your problem.
  4. Have your own financing and loan approvals ready before you go to buy the car. (This can also be good if you're planning on making a new car purchase.)

If you follow these simple instructions, your used car-buying experience should go smoothly. Remember that buying a used car from a dealership is similar to buying a new car from a dealership. You want to be armed with all the relevant information before you buy any car, new or used.