Used Car Search

How to Find the Best Used Cars For Sale!

how to buy a used carBuying a used car is a smart decision.

If you do your homework you can usually buy a nicer car, with low miles, and the depreciation makes it much cheaper than buying a new car.

In fact, many car buyers that can afford a new car will opt for a slightly used car that has low miles, is still under warranty, and best of all, avoid the huge depreciation that hits new car buyers the second they drive off the lot.

Did You Know? Buying a slightly used car can save you up to 30 percent versus buying a new one.

IMPORTANT! Buying a used car is more difficult to do because you do not know how the previous owner(s) treated the car. The first and most important tool you MUST use is a CarFax History Report.

All you need is the VIN (vehicle identification number) of the vehicle you are interested in and you can get a complete report about that car.

You need to know if the car has ever been in any accidents, where it came from, and how many owners it has had. These factors are important because it will save you many headaches down the road.

A car that has been in an accident will never sell for its’ current blue book value and you may want to stay away from a car that has an accident in its’ history. If you notice a car has had several owners over a short period of time you should be careful.

Where the vehicle came from also factors in because it may have been in a flood area.

Another important issue is whether the miles on the odometer match the history report.

One of the biggest frauds is car sellers that roll back miles to increase the value of the car.

Do Not even consider buying a used car without a CarFax History Report first. We strongly advise you to pay the 29 bucks for the unlimited use of this service because you will be looking at many cars as you search for your perfect used car.

One of our writers here was looking for a good used Cadillac, and while searching local car dealers found a beautiful one. He ran a carfax check and saw that it was in an accident. The sales rep at the dealer had no clue about this. Do not assume that the dealer knows the history of any vehicle on their lot. Don’t ever take their word for it.

Where to find a Used Car.

Think of the Internet as the worlds largest car lot, and do all of your searching and used car pricing from home. 

There are used car buying services, Auto classifieds websites with photos, car dealer websites, car buying information sites, auction sites like E-bay and much more.

Use as many used car buying services that make sense to you. In order to receive feedback on vehicles you are interested in you must contact many dealers.

Here is the best place to begin your used car search.

AutoNetUSA Classifieds   

These are online classifieds that allow you to search through thousands of cars.

What is the used car worth?

This where it gets tricky. There is no invoice price to use as a guide. You must use different sources to get an idea of what the book value is. You must also look at what similar cars are currently selling for.  

To get the current book values you should use these 3 sites and compare each ones value. Kelley Blue BookEdmunds, and NADAWhen reading the values you should always use the lowest value as your guideline when negotiating a final price.

Buying from a Used Car Dealer.

Most reputable used Car Dealers inspect each used car and only put their best ones on the lot. The ones that don’t make the grade are usually wholesaled out, or sent to auction.

Be careful at the smaller buy here pay here lots because they often buy these rejects from other dealers and sell them “As Is”. If you sign an “As Is” form you are stuck with the car no matter what happens.

Imagine buying a used car and several days later the engine blows. Avoid “As Is” forms..

Negotiating the best price with a Dealer is hard, because you do not know what the dealer paid for the car.

It is usually best to stay around that lowest blue book value, and always compare the same make and model to similar cars you see for sale.

If the pre-owned car does not have at least a 30 day guarantee you should not buy it.

Check and see if the car is still under warranty. If it is close to expiring or expired you must look into an Extended Warranty. The best one we have seen is from Warranty Direct. Buy directly from them because most car dealers will mark up the price and make a profit.

Buying used cars for sale by owner.

Use the phone first. You do not want to waste a lot of time driving around looking at cars you won’t end up buying. Ask questions that will make the seller answer fast. 

  • Why are you selling the car? Is he hiding something?
  • How many miles are on it? If the car has a lot of miles it will greatly reduce the value.
  • Do you have the maintenance records, oil change history and tune up history? Ask about the general condition of the car. Interior, tires, does the A/C run cool.
  • Are there any problems I should know about? Do you mind if I test drive the car? Anyone that will not allow you to drive the car is hiding something. No test drive, no deal!
  • Do you have a clean title in your hands? If not where is it and is there a lien on this car.
  • What is the Vin Number? You should always get the Vin number on the phone and run CarFax before you drive out to see the car.

Some of the best deals out there are from cars for sale by owners. Most private sellers are not skilled negotiators like car dealers. This allows you to really grind the selling price down.

You must do your homework and bring your book value paperwork with you to show a private owner why his price is too high. You must know every option on the car so you can find its’ true book value.

Many unskilled private sellers will already start lowering the price without you saying anything. If a seller needs to sell his car right away he will probably be easier to work with about price. Most sellers are under the impression that they must overprice the sale price to negotiate down.

Once you arrive at his house or meeting place. (Have a notepad handy)

Never get excited about a car because the seller will read this and stand firm on the price.

Tell them about similar cars you have looked at and what you liked about them. This lets him know you are looking at numerous cars. Make sure the seller has a clean title or if he has a lien, go to the bank with him to complete the transaction. 

NEVER give a private owner money up front to pay off a lien. 

If you are going to his house to view the car, look around, does he keep his yard clean and organized. This tells you a little about the way he may have treated this car.

  • Ask to see the service records.
  • If he has an extended warranty on the car, is it transferable?
  • Always check the driveway for stains. Stains on driveway indicate a leak of some sort. Ask about leaks if you see stains.

When the used car manager at a car dealer inspects your trade in, he always walks around the car and is negative about any items he sees, like scratches, worn tires, minor dents. You should do the same because it puts the seller in a bad state of mind about the true value of his car.

Don’t say a word just let him see you do it.

Are the tires worn? New tires are expensive and this detracts from the selling price. Unevenly worn tires indicate some potential problems with the front end.  When you open the hood check and see if the engine is warm. Some cars with problems need to warm up. You want to inspect a cold engine.

Test drive the used car.

Bring the seller with you and keep the radio off. You need to listen for noises and ask questions about them.

Don’t just drive around the block. If there is a highway nearby use it. Listen for rattles and grinding sounds. Does the car shake at a certain speed? Listen for the brakes, and make sure it shifts smooth.

Always check the heater and A/C. When you turn it on does it grind. A/C compressors are expensive. How cold does it get? Did it take a while to cool off? Remember, the best time for a car owner to sell a car with a bad AC unit is in the winter because you may forget to check it!

Check all the lights, seat belts, power windows, power seats. All of these items will detract from the selling price.

Most cars for sale by owner are just average people trying to get back some money on their no longer needed vehicle. However, there are many crooks out there that will hide major problems, or out right scam you. 

You should always take the car to your mechanic for his inspection. If a serious seller has a problem with this, walk away and don’t look back. Once you buy a car from a private seller it is yours, and if something major goes wrong, it is your problem.

Buy your used Car.

Once you have used all the tips above, it is time to decide if you want to buy the car. If it is a steal and you procrastinate it will be gone.

However, if it is overpriced or needs some work, you must lower your bid and justify it with the seller. Don’t just throw a low ball offer at the seller.

Show him your notes and let him know why you are offering this price. If he won’t budge, walk away and start your search again. Let him know if he changes his mind to call you, but inform him you will continue your search and the offer will not be valid long.

Make sure the title is clean and go with him to the bank to get it notarized. Remember once you buy from a private seller, the car is yours and any problems that may spring up are your responsibility.

Buying used cars from Auction Sites (Ebay etc..)

This is a popular way to buy a car but comes with many risks. If you are bidding on a car on ebay and you win, the car is yours. If you are buying it without seeing it you are relying on the seller to provide accurate info. You should run a CarFax report before you start bidding.

There are scam artists on ebay so beware. If the car deal is too good to be true watch out it may be a scam. Watch out for salvaged titles, and flood cars. We are not big fans of online bidding sites because you cannot check the car out before buying and have no control over the buying process. Just be very careful!!