McMinnville Auto Sales LLC

How to Buy a Used Car, Everything You Need To Know

How do I buy a used car? 

Buying a Used Car: Quick Facts

Decide how much you can afford to spend on a used car. If you think about buying the car directly with cash, consider how much money you are able to spend.

Before deciding to buy a car, always read reviews. A vehicle’s features and pattern can change so fast from one year to the next. Read the car reviews from the old years to ensure you get the style and features according to your desires.

If buying from a private individual, Kelley Blue Book’s Private Seller Exchange manages the process for the buyer and seller, including a verification process to ensure the sellers are legitimate. Also, the service eliminates fraud and spam by handling the exchange of funds and the car title.

We realize buying a used car can rank right up there with getting a root canal. But opting for a used car over a new one presents many positive points, including saving money.

Because of car depreciation, purchasing a 3-year-old vehicle for significantly less than the same model is possible. At a time when consumers pay an average of about $48,000 for a new car, buying a used one can mean significant savings. Another boon for current buyers is that the quality of modern cars is better than before. Even a vehicle that’s several years old can provide many years of driving life.

With accurate information and a few simple rules, the process of finding and buying a used car from a dealer or private seller can be a bit more painful than you think. 

Steps for Buying a Used Car 

  • Figure out how much you can afford.
  • Find the right vehicle for you.
  • Find used vehicle prices.
  • Check your vehicle’s price.
  • Get financing lined up.
  • Contact Sellers
  • Get a Vehicle History Report
  • Examine and test-drive the car.
  • Negotiate a price.
  • Do the paperwork.

Figure out how much you can afford.

Always decide your budget before buying your car in cash.

However, most buyers will take out a loan. If you plan to borrow money, calculate how much money you can spend by using our sister site, Autotrader’s monthly payment calculator tool, to help you crunch some numbers.

In addition to the initial or recurring costs, remember to budget for other expenses related to the car. These include car insurance, registration, and fuel. It’s also wise to set money aside for maintenance, both routine stuff like tune-ups and potentially pricier things like car repairs.

Used cars need more maintenance than new cars. And unlike a new car or leased car that comes with new car warranties and sometimes complimentary maintenance, the responsibility of servicing a used car will be on you.

So set a budget, whether it’s $10,000, $20,000, or $30,000 for a used car, and stick to it.

In addition to giving you a target price and parameters to work with, a target price will help if you take out a loan. Factor the monthly payment into your overall budget, including mortgage or rent, child care, utility bills, food and household expenses, and other debt such as student loans. 

Find the right vehicle for you. 

Once you’ve established how much you can spend on a used car, it’s time to find the right one for you, or at least a list of several candidates. This may seem daunting, but the good news is that with such a variety, there is a vehicle that’s right for you, whether it’s a small SUV, a large pickup truck, a midsize sedan, or a sporty convertible.

Kelley Blue Book offers extensive information on every major vehicle make and model. You can get information from experts at your finger tips.

As with any vehicle purchase, consider not just your present needs but your future ones, too. If you’re planning to grow your family, now is probably not the time for that 2-seat sports car. And if you’re planning on having a third child, we recommend a 3-row SUV or minivan over a smaller 2-row model.

Find used vehicle prices. 

To check your price list, first select the car you want to buy.

To get the price of a particular make and model—for example, the Ford F-150—don’t forget to check the boxes for features you want, such as 4-wheel drive or a crew cab.

When buying used, we encourage Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles. CPO cars go through a rigorous examination process by a dealership and must meet certain parameters for things like their condition. Certified cars are backed by warranties.

CPO vehicles are costlier than used cars that aren’t certified. However, you get the best of both worlds with a CPO vehicle. You get a used car that will cost far less than a new one due to depreciation, and one that is meticulously checked for problems and backed by a warranty, just like a new vehicle.

If you buy the car from an individual, unless the car still has some of its factory warranty left on it or you buy an after-market warranty, you are more than likely buying the car “as-is.” 

Check your vehicle’s price. 

If you plan to sell a car you currently own and use the money toward your next vehicle, you’ll need to see how much your car is worth. A book is written on this, and when you do research about the Kelley Blue Book car value, you’ll get fair results using our tool.

You can analyze the input of your car’s make, model, pattern, and condition, along with its features. Beware of its condition, and remember that the buyer will want to negotiate if your car shows scratches and dents. Once you know your car’s dealership trade-in and private party value, you can determine which route works best for you.

If you want to be done with the vehicle and get it off your hands quickly and easily, you might consider an instant cash offer. This process works exactly as it sounds. Dealerships come to you with official offers based on your car’s value. It saves the hassle of negotiating a trade-in at a dealership or dealing with low-ball text offers from strangers if you are trying to sell on your own. 

Get financing lined up. 

Go with the finance options now that you have some vehicles in mind and your budget set. Most dealers offer financing, but we always recommend seeking alternatives as well.

If the dealer can offer you a better deal, that works. But getting pre-approved for a loan before shopping at a dealership online or in person gives you more flexibility and does not make you beholden to just one sales lot or dealership. 

TIP: When shopping for a car at a car dealership, don’t discuss financing until you know the final cost, with all fees and taxes included. We’ll tell you more about that in the section on negotiations below.

Contact Sellers 

When you’ve browsed used cars for sale and found one that you like and fits your needs and budget, you can inquire about it. If the car is being sold by a contractor, it’s smart to call and see if it’s still available.

The same goes for a private-party seller. In these two cases, this is the chance to ask questions about this specific used vehicle. Also, you’ll want to know if the seller has the title in hand and that it’s clean (as opposed to a salvage title). You can also ask to see maintenance records to see if they still owe money on the vehicle or if there is a lien on it.

TIP: In a secure environment, it manages the process for the buyer and seller, including a verification process to ensure the sellers are legitimate. Also, the service eliminates fraud and spam by checking IP addresses, emails, and phone numbers and using Stripe to verify ID. 

Get a Vehicle History Report

It’s always a good idea to check a vehicle’s history before you make a purchase. A vehicle history report is derived from the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN). It will show you information about accidents and maintenance and let you know about its title.

You can check vehicle reports on AutoCheck or Carfax. If buying a car from a dealership, they usually provide free service, so ask questions about them.

When deciding on a vehicle for sale from a private seller, getting a history report helps you detect potential problems or sticking points. It also helps you bargain. 

Examine and test-drive the car.

At this point, it’s time to take the used car for a test drive. We know it’s exciting because we get giddy testing cars, too. But try to be objective and not let emotions get the best of you.

Whether the used car is being sold by a dealer or an individual, you’ll want to focus on important aspects of the vehicle. Balding tires, torn seats, and fading paint show signs of neglect, improper care, or deeper issues. Sometimes, the car will give a literal warning sign, such as a check engine light.

Go with a trusted friend who knows cars. A Be wary if they say no. They may have something to hide, and in that case, you’ll do yourself a favor by walking away from the deal.

Are you comfortable in the seat, and does it adjust for a proper driving position? This is important.

Negotiate a price.

Once you see the price you can satisfy, you can bargain any other terms, containing any financing, to see what the dealer can offer.

Before signing anything, remember to look for any extra fees on the bottom line. We hear many stories about buyers at dealerships getting charged for extras like “VIN etching” or “vehicle reconditioning fees.” Question all fees and know that VIN etching isn’t necessary unless you want or ask for the service. As for reconditioning, anyone buying a used car expects the vehicle to be cleaned up. However, the price on the sticker reflects that before the fees, so remind the salesperson of that sfact.

Do the paperwork. 

There’s no doubt you’re eager to get behind the wheel of this new-to-you used car. The final step is the paperwork.

Such a form can often be found online or at your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. You can also use this bill of sale form from, a company that helps you navigate the sometimes complex DMV process.

Car emissions and registration can vary by state, so make sure you check what is needed in yours, especially if this is a private-party transaction. Before you drive away in the car, make sure you add the vehicle to your insurance policy.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *