CarProUSA Used Car Buying Guide

8 Steps to Buying a Used Car

CarProUSA Used Car Buying Guide - How to shop for a used car.
If you’re reading this article, you’re likely in the market for a new set of wheels and are considering a used car. If you don’t need the latest technology, are flexible with your wish list, and do the right due diligence during the shopping process, you can often get a great value for thousands of dollars less than you would buying new. And financially, you’ll avoid new car depreciation.

There are some key differences between buying used versus new. They involve a number of factors including financing, insurance costs and the types of technology you'll find in older model year vehicles versus newer model ones. To determine where buying used is for you, let’s consider some of the benefits and downsides.

Buying a Used Car - Benefits: Avoid new car depreciation, Afford a better equipped model than you would buying new, Save on insurance, Lower purchase cost, More places/people to buy from. Downsides: Requires more due diligence, Interest rates may be higher, No factory rebates/incentives, Older technology, Harder to compare since no two used cars are exactly alike

If you’re ready to go down the used car path, we’re here to help. Buying a used vehicle versus a new one presents some unique challenges and you’ll likely have a few questions. We created our used car buying guide to help you understand the process so that you get a great used vehicle and have a good experience.

1. Determine Your Used Car Budget

TIP - Many financial experts recommend spending no more than 10%-20% of your take-home pay on car expenses.Like buying a new car, you’ll need to start with coming up with your budget. Be sure to take into account ownership costs which includes things like fuel and maintenance costs along with monthly car insurance.

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TIP - Many financial experts recommend spending no more than 10%-20% of your take-home pay on car expenses.

2. Research Used Car Models

Next, make a list of features important to you and vehicles that meet both your criteria and your budget. Understand that in some cases, CARPROSHOW host Jerry Reynolds says used cars can cost more than new, based on a number of factors. Also, research reliability with these resources and look at safety ratings from NHTSA and IIHS. Our vehicle reviews are also a great source of information. Search CARPROUSA Reviews here.

MORE >> Finding a $5,000 used vehicle

Generally the best value is to buy a vehicle 2-3 years old, driven 15,000 miles or less per year. The steepest depreciation happens in the first two years. - CarProUSA Radio Show host Jerry Reynolds

3. Finding Used Cars

Not all used cars are alike. We recommend buying factory-certified pre-owned when possible, since those vehicles go through a stringent factory inspection. While you likely pay a bit more, the peace of mind may be worth it to you. Some other types of used cars include dealership loaners and former rental cars. And finally, there are cars for sale by private sellers or at public auto auctions. Use the CARPROUSA used car search tool link below to find vehicles at our certified dealers for an added layer of confidence.

MORE >> Click Here to Use Our CARPROUSA Used Car Search Tool

Search Local & Live Car Listings

4. Check the Used Car History Report

Once you pick a specific used vehicle, investigating its history should be an early part of the process. We recommend obtaining a vehicle history report. We discuss the two main history report providers, AutoCheck and CarFAX, here.

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Get an AutoCheck Report

5. Contact Seller to Schedule Proper Test Drive

Whether you are buying a used car from a dealer or private party, next it’s time to contact seller to schedule a proper test drive. A test drive is critical when buying a car to avoid what CARPROUSA radio show host Jerry Reynolds calls “buyers remorse.” It becomes even more essential when buying a used vehicle that has some miles on it. Download our Used Car Test Drive Checklist here.

6. Get the Used Car Inspected

If you like the used car after driving it, consider taking it to a third-party mechanic for a professional inspection.

Exception: If you are buying a Factory Certified Pre-Owned vehicle, the dealer has already completed a through a stringent factory required inspection process and the vehicle is also under warranty.

7. Calculate the Deal

TIP - Concentrate on the total vehicle price, not on low monthly payments. Low monthly payments may sound great but can result in an undesirable longer loan term. Make sure you are completely clear on the numbers before signing.So you’ve found the perfect car for you. The next step is to talk numbers with your salesperson (or private seller). Be aware that financing for used cars is different than new cars.

MORE >> High Cost of No-Haggle Used Car Pricing

The Finance part of car buying can make many people nervous but you don’t need to be. These tips will help you navigate the finance office. If you are financing through the car manufacturer’s company, (like Honda, or Toyota), the finance department will run a credit check. Your credit score plays a role in determining your loan interest rate. Find tips on filling out the credit application here.

TIP - Concentrate on the total vehicle price, not on low monthly payments. Low monthly payments may sound great but can result in an undesirable longer loan term. Make sure you are completely clear on the numbers before signing.

If you’re buying a used car from a dealership, you’ll also get a trade-in value for your vehicle if you have one. Here are tips on getting your car read for the trade-in process. Also keep in mind, timing your trade-in is crucial especially if you have a car that is 5 years old or newer. Read about model-year changeover and what that means to used car values here.

MORE >> Evaluating Your Trade-In Options

8. Finalize Your Purchase

When looking at actual contract, pay special attention to anything that has a dollar amount next to it.Now that you’ve come to the final selling price, factoring in any trade-in and loan interest rate, you are almost at the finish line. At this point, the salesperson or finance person will present you with optional add-ons like extended warranties, vehicle protection and maintenance plans. These items may increase your total purchase cost, but can save you money on repairs down the road.

MORE >> Factory Certified Pre-Owned Warranties
When looking at actual contract, pay special attention to anything that has a dollar amount next to it.
Once you select or decline additional items, it’s time to get everything formalized on paper. Take the time to read through the contract and look at everything listed, including dealer documentation fees, tax and title fees and anything else with a number next to it.
Question anything you do not understand.

Also make sure you get a “due bill” on anything promised to you, like work on the car, tinted windows, etc, in writing.

By following the advice you’ve read in our used car buying guide and purchasing from a CarProUSA Certified Dealer’s used car inventory, you can be confident in your car buying experience. Enjoy your new (to you) ride!

Editorial Photo Credit: ZikG/Shutterstock
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Shane Koonce
My daughter has a 2018 Dodge Journey 4 cylinder with 35,600miles. She is wanting to trade it in on a good used truck. What do you think that the Journey would be worth on trade in and were would be the best place to go to do business. She is going to be upside down a little on her Journey also. Thanks
The Car Pro
Shane, enter the information on the Dodge at Give Me The VIN.

They give you a real cash offer and you’ll have a good idea where she stands.  They are generally aggressive buyers for my listeners.

Jerry Reynolds
I'm shopping for a used small truck or car with excellent fuel efficiency...I don't need towing, luxury or lots of interior room... I have that covered with my F250 6.7 L Lariat... I've heard you talking about the VW Passat? how about a Chevy Colorado? I'd like to go the certified preowned route.
The Car Pro
Both those are good choices, but there are MANY great fuel-efficient vehicles. My favorite would be a Certified Toyota Prius. It will get you close to 50 MPG, drives well, and they tend to be very good buys.

Jerry Reynolds
Any suggestions for good 1-2 year old luxury cars with poor resale value, making them a good buy as a certified preowned?
The Car Pro
Yes, look at Genesis, Lincoln Continental, or Lexus GS. All those fit the criteria. Check with our dealers depending on where you are!

Jerry Reynolds