By Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

December 8, 2022

How to Find the Right Used Car

Shopping for a used car can be a daunting task. From vehicle history reports to accounting for a Blue Book Value, the search can be lengthy, but don't give up!

Here is a quick checklist of what to check on a used car

In this article, you'll learn the key steps to finding the right used car. We'll discuss the auto loan pre-approval process to scheduling a test drive.

Get ready - you're one step closer to your new wheels!


Buying a used car can be a great way to get the car of your dreams without breaking the bank.

But, you need to understand the steps to a successful used car-buying process. With the right due diligence, you'll make sure you are getting a reliable vehicle at a fair price.

You will find useful tips to make an informed buying decision.

Research Used Car Models

Before you start the process of buying a used car, research potential models ahead of time. Make a list of the makes and models that appeal to you.

You might need more space with an SUV or the performance of a sports car. You should list down the must-have things for your next vehicle.

Sometimes, you might not be aware of all the available makes and models so you should know. There are hundreds of choices from newish to late models.

Research online and reviews to learn more about each model. You should also consider ownership, fuel requirements and reliability.

Japanese brands like Honda and Toyota top the list of reliable cars that have high resale value. Kia and Hyundai are also highly regarded brands.

European brands have excellent driving dynamics but repair costs can quickly add up.

However, you can also find excellent domestic models like Ford, GM and Chrysler models. You should check out YouTube reviews and see if there are any major issues.

Get a Vehicle History Report

Getting a Vehicle History Report (VHR) is an important step in making sure you are getting a quality used car. I always recommend this as the next step if you are serious in buying a specific vehicle.

VHRs provide invaluable information about the history of a vehicle in one document.

The vehicle history report will include the service history, accidents and more. It will also include the number of owners and if the title is branded clean, rebuilt or salvaged.

You will want to aim for a clean title with no rebuilt history.

These reports can also help alert you to problems that are not visible from a visual inspection.

Using industry leading VHR services like CARFAX®, can help protect you from a bad buy.

This comprehensive report can be sent via email to make it easily accessible. Having this information allows buyers to make informed decisions when purchasing used vehicles.

how to find the right used car

Estimate the Vehicle’s Value Using KBB and Blue Book

When you’re shopping for a used car, it’s important to know the market value before you make an offer or consider buying.

Depending on the condition of the car or vehicle, you can negotiate the price.

The Blue Book value will help set your expectations and provide insight into what a fair deal on the car would be. Sometimes, sellers or dealerships may set unrealistic prices. I would skip those places.

The estimated retail price is based on factors such as year, make, model, mileage, and condition.

These values are described as Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor. Each condition corresponds to mechanics, exterior paint quality and interior trim. Be realistic and always underestimate versus thinking about its mint.

By knowing the estimated value before, allows you the ability to negotiate the price.

Find a Used Car Loan

When buying a used car, financing is usually an important consideration.

Many lenders offer attractive loan terms for used car purchases.  This includes fixed interest rates and terms that range from two to seven years.

Depending on your financial situation, I would suggest paying cash if possible.

If your FICO score is decent, then financing might make sense. Everyone is different but you know how much you can really afford.

Check your credit score before applying for a loan, as this will affect the interest rate you are offered.

I always suggest shopping around for different offers from different lenders. Credit unions are a good alternative to a traditional bank.

You can also use online tools to compare loan offers from many sources to make an informed decision.

The bigger the down payment, many lenders can offer lower rates. So if you can put down more, this will help you in the long run.

Some dealerships may offer their own financing. These may include incentives such as low interest or special terms.

Before signing for an auto loan, read through all the paperwork. Be aware of all fees such as prepayment penalties or late fees.

how to find the right used car - test drive

Test Drive the Vehicle

Make sure you know if there were any major repairs or accidents before driving the car. You may want to ask for copies of any repair invoices or accident reports.

Before buying a car, be sure to test drive it thoroughly. The performance at different speeds and road conditions will reveal a lot. See how it performs when accelerating from a standstill and heavy acceleration.

Also check out the tires of the vehicle. Tire can provide clues on the vehicle's ownership.  Other items to check are if doors lock , the windows work, cracks in the windshield, and so forth.

Also keep in mind that there may be some unusual sounds when accelerating or idling. If anything seems odd, don't hesitate to ask questions. Finally, make sure to bring someone else along for the ride so they can help you check the vehicle.

Negotiate a Price

Negotiating a price on a used car is an individual process.

To get the best deal, research car values to determine the typical sales price in your area.

Check out websites like Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, and NADAGuides to get an accurate estimate of the price of similar vehicles in your area. Then set a budget and stick to it.

Next, choose a price that sounds fair to both parties. It should be something that’s lower than the asking prices but not too low that they’ll think you’re desperate. 

Remember to have patience. Even if it takes time and many visits to reach agreement on pricing, remember that good deals don't come easy!

Be prepared to walk away. My other rule is that there will ALWAY be another opportunity.

Remember there are always plenty of cars and you will find one at the right cost with fair terms!

how to find the right used car

Finalize the Purchase

Once you have identified the right used car and negotiated a reasonable price, it's time to close the deal.

To ensure your sale is successful, there are a few key steps to finalizing the sale.

Once you have identified the perfect used car and negotiated a reasonable price, it's time to close the deal.

There are several important steps involved in ensuring your order goes smoothly.

Check with your state's motor vehicles department for registration and license plate requirements. regulations. Your state may dictate what documentation you must present and how much tax or any other fees you owe.

It’s important to arrange for your new car to be insured before driving off. You don't want to risk a potential, costly mistake of not having insurance in an accident.

With so many insurance companies competing, this process can take less than 15 minutes over the phone. You will need to provide the VIN number and the address, where the car will be parked.

Make sure you get your new vehicle registered within 30 days and all taxes have been paid. Once you get your license plates and registration, you can start enjoying the car.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, buying a used car is a smart move for many reasons.

First, you'll know exactly what you're getting into from the beginning. This helps you avoid surprises later on.

Secondly, you'll be able to buy a quality vehicle without having to spend a fortune.

Third, you'll be able to get a great deal because you'll be able to negotiate with someone who knows their stuff.

All of these factors add up to a win-win situation, so don't hesitate to check out a used car market near you today!

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Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

About the author

I am a passionate car enthusiast who likes to help people save money and avoid headaches when it comes to cars. I believe that everyone can find the right car at the right price. I share my tips and experience so you can learn quickly and maximize your next SUV, truck or car purchase.

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