3 Steps To Use When Buying A Used Car



I have a Love/Hate relationship with buying cars. I love having a new (to me) car, but I hate the process of buying them.

I have owned 6 in my life and have bought them from both dealers and individuals. For the record, dealing with individuals is generally easier, but dealers offer financing, trade in and servicing capabilities which may be needed.

There is no “best” way to buy a car and everyone has different needs. But, there are 3 things to keep in mind when buying a car. I’ve used these 3 steps to buy my cars.

Do Your Research – When I was a salesman, I could usually tell the difference between people who had researched the products I was selling and those who didn’t. Sometimes, they tested me on my knowledge and personability to buy something from me. That’s ok, that was just part of the job as I saw it.

However, sometimes people did not have all the correct information from whatever source they were using to do their research. The Internet is great, but be cautious with any information you receive. It may not be totally factual or up-to-date. Also, be weary of customer reviews and/or consumer periodicals or magazines on the Internet. Everybody has an opinion and I always advised my customers that everybody has a reason for sharing their opinions and sometimes that reason is motivated by money. Don’t believe that other people are looking out for your own good.

Nevertheless, it is important to scan the Internet to get a wide variety of opinions and information. Plus, it is as vitally important to talk to real people. Talk to people who work in the business or have worked in the business of selling or buying cars. They could share some insights you may have missed. Bottom line: Better to be prepared, as much as possible of course, than not.

 my car

Take Your Time – Unless your car breaks down and you need a car immediately, take your time buying a car. When my friend’s car died and she needed a car right away, she called a dealer (who was the husband of a friend of hers) and she got a car. It was a good car, but maybe not the one she would have purchased if she was not in dire need.

If you are thinking a getting a new, or another, car, start right away. Start researching, start talking to people, go to car lots and look at them. Look up what you want in a car including color, 4 wheel drive, interior space, a DVD player, whatever. Prioritize your list so that you know what you must have, what you would like to have and what doesn’t really matter to you if you have it or not.

If you go to a car dealership, be prepared to walk out if you don’t get what you want. You have the leverage. This is one of the best pieces of advice I ever received about buying a car from a dealer. Once you walk out of a dealership, you will feel ultimately in control of your purchase.

 wife’s car

Price – This sounds as if it would be an easy thing, but not necessarily so, especially in a dealership. With an individual, haggling is much simpler and more straightforward. With a dealership, it becomes a little more complicated in terms of length of contract and any additional items, such as warranties. I usually buy warranties because I believe they pay for themselves in the long run. But, it’s a gamble. If you’re not comfortable with them, then don’t it.

Know your price, including and especially monthly payments for obvious reasons. Car salespeople are notorious for “bumping” customers up to the next most expensive car. If you know what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend, that technique may not work.

One place the Internet does come in handy is price. You can see what other cars are selling for in your make and model that you’re researching. Knowledge is potential power. This includes trade-ins, which is another reason to consider a dealership vs. selling a car on your own.


I bought a car last year and my wife bought one last month. I used these techniques to purchase the cars and we believe we got very good deals on both. On my car, I had a trade in and the dealership gave me a very generous trade in allowance.

On my wife’s car, well, it died and she needed one right away. We only had a couple of days to secure one. Both she and I had already begun researching, so we were prepared for our search. Fortunately, we had a friend who had also purchased a car from the dealership we went to and gave it a good recommendation. We found the car she wanted and got a good deal.

Of course, these may not be the only steps you want or need.  Some other steps may include: pre-approval for loans, test drives or a new vs. a used car decision.  Those are important, too, but I used my three steps as the primary ones.

Finally, people are always talking about the best this or best that, or in this case, the best car. I believe it is all up to you. You have to live with your decision. I don’t believe in best anything, except the best car for you. I’ve had people tell me they are not happy with their very expensive car while their son was extremely happy with his much lower priced car which had fewer, and cheaper, repairs.

Do your research. Take your time. Know your price. With these three simple steps, I believe you will find the car that you can live with.  I have.


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