Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips and Reviews

A man is out of focus while looking at a blue used car near me.

How to Find the Perfect Used Car

If you have ever purchased a used vehicle before, then you already know how confusing it can be to do so outside of a car dealership. For the folks who have never purchased a used vehicle before, it can seem a bit daunting. That’s why we put together a handy guide to help you find used cars locally. Aside from running a Google search for “used cars near me,” there are plenty of things you can take to help you find the perfect dealer and the perfect model.

Private vs Dealership Sales

In our professional opinion, we always recommend purchasing a used car from a dealership rather than a private seller. It’s safer, more affordable, and you will always have an open line of communication.

If you’re meeting a stranger to purchase a used car you saw on Craigslist, things can go south pretty quickly. Not only can this exchange be a bit awkward, but it can also be dangerous. You are putting all of your trust into a stranger, and that could lead to you getting a vehicle that is a lemon or worse.

While the salesperson at your local dealership may also be a stranger, they have a company backing them up. The dealership they work for is putting their reputation on the line by hiring them. This can help to establish a line of trust even though you don’t know the salesperson. If you end up having an issue with the vehicle, you can always speak to someone else at the dealership for assistance. That is not a luxury that you can have when you’re buying a used car from a private seller.

Another reason to hit your local dealership is for better deals and financing options. Private sellers generally ask top-dollar for their vehicles, and they usually want the payment made in cash. If you can’t pay in cash, then you definitely need to buy your vehicle from a dealership. Not only could the price tag be lower, but you can also work out a monthly payment plan that will not break your bank.

Finally, communicating with a private seller is much slower than with a dealership. It’s usually done via email, which most people don’t check more than once per day. This delay in communication means that you are without a vehicle for longer than you probably wanted to be. With a dealership, you can stop by the lot at any time during hours of operation. You can also call during those same hours, and someone will speak with you. Even if the salesperson you initially communicated with is off that day, you will be able to be in touch with someone else who can assist you. In other words, a dealership will get you behind the wheel of the vehicle you want quickly and efficiently.

A couple is talking to a car salesman in a suit.

Used Cars for Sale

Dealerships always have a selection of used vehicles. Used cars are the most common models you will see on any dealer lot. Whether you want a sporty coupe, a comfortable sedan, or an eco-friendly hybrid, you can find it at a dealership. You might even be able to find used cars that aren’t in production anymore or iconic styles from certain eras that have since been changed. For example, the iconic Volkswagen Beetle has a rounded dome shape that has recently been flattened out. If you love that old-school circular style, these models are plentiful on used car lots.

Used SUVs for Sale

Another vehicle that is generally easy to find on used car lots is a pre-owned SUV. Families will generally trade-in their SUV for a larger model to accommodate their growing family, and older couples may trade-in their SUV for a full-size sedan once their kids go off to college. Either way, you win! You can find compact crossover, mid-size models, and full-size SUVs on every dealership lot around the country. You may even be able to find luxury brands, hybrids, and off-roading models. It all depends on what you’re looking for.

Used Trucks for Sale

You won’t find as many pre-owned trucks available for sale as you will cars and SUVs. This is mainly because truck buyers tend to keep their trucks for a very long time. However, there will always be a few used truck models available. The selection might not be as wide, but you can find something suitable if you look hard enough.

What to Look for in a Used Vehicle

A salesman is talking to a woman while she sits inside a car.

Certain specifications that you may want to look for in a used vehicle will heavily depend on what kind of vehicle you want to purchase. For example, people looking for a commuter car will want a high fuel economy more so than someone looking for a work truck. However, as a general rule of thumb, they are a few things that you should always look for no matter what type of vehicle you want to buy.

First, you should always ask for a vehicle history report. Most car dealerships will have the report with the vehicle already. This is especially true for certified pre-owned (CPO) models. However, if the vehicle doesn’t seem to have the history report ready to go, you can request one. The salesperson will be able to provide you with a vehicle history report. This report shows how many owners the vehicle has had, whether or not it has been an accident, was reported stolen, has had any water damage, and if it was salvaged or a lemon. You can avoid a lot of headaches down the road if you simply check the vehicle history report before doing anything else.

Next, if everything checks out fine on the report, you need to take the vehicle for a test drive. Do not purchase a used vehicle without driving it around for a bit first. This will give you a chance to listen for any strange sounds and give you a feel for the vehicle. If you have children, it’s best to bring them along for the test drive too. After all, they will be riding in the vehicle often. It’s best to pick one that everyone will be comfortable in.

Finally, ask whether or not the dealership offers any extended warranties or protection plans for used vehicles. Generally, non-CPO vehicles do not come with any added protections. However, if you ask nicely, sometimes the dealership will offer some sort of plan or extension. They may even give you complimentary maintenance for your first oil change. It all depends on the dealership, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Keep in mind that if you purchase a CPO vehicle, you will be getting an extended warranty as well as special financing options, roadside assistance, and maybe even a few more goodies that the dealership decided to throw in. That’s just another perk to purchasing from a dealer instead of a private seller.

Find the Perfect Used Vehicle

If you are ready to buy a used car, truck, or SUV, you can easily find your top local dealership by doing some research online. You can even browse the dealerships’ inventories to help you decide which one you want to visit in-person.

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