How to Buy a Used Car From a Dealership

Knowing how to buy a used car from a dealership can be a minefield for buyers new and experienced. The used car market is ever-changing—in fact, right now, the prices are finally starting to drop after reaching all-time highs.

If you’re in the market for a used car, there are a few essential steps you can’t skip if you want to avoid investing in a lemon. Read on for our quick guide to purchasing the right used car for your needs at the best possible price.

Research the Market Thoroughly

Before you step out your door to buy a used car from a dealership, spend some time at home on your computer.

Decide in advance on:

  • The make and model of the car you want
  • The features you need in a car
  • What your make or break limits are—for example, maximum mileage
  • Your budget
  • Whether or not you need financing

Most dealerships post at least a portion of their used inventory online. Research the car lots near you to find out which look to have cars that suit your criteria. This way, you won’t waste time visiting every dealer in your area.

Test Drive the Car

When buying a used car from a dealership, it’s vital to test drive any vehicle you’re considering. During the drive, pay attention to:

  • How much space the car has
  • How adjustable the space is
  • Driving comfort, including the steering wheel and seat height and adjustability
  • Warning lights on the dashboard
  • Smells coming from anywhere in the car
  • Visibility—check all the mirrors
  • The condition of the tires, brakes, and under the hood
  • The AC

Be sure to ask the dealer for the vehicle’s service records, too.

Use an Independent Inspector

Once you’ve narrowed your selection to one or two cars, invest in an independent inspection. Do this even if the used car has a warranty or service contract. It will help ensure you avoid unwanted repairs down the road.

If the inspector finds minor issues, ask for a repair quote. You can use it to negotiate a better price—if you’re still interested in purchasing that vehicle, of course.

Review the Warranty and Service Contract Terms

The final issue we want to address in this used car buying guide is that of warranty and service contracts.

When it comes to warranties on used cars, look for a dealer that provides a limited or full warranty or a service contract. Just be sure to read the terms carefully before signing on the dotted line. If you’re lucky and the car is a later model, it might also come with an unexpired manufacturer’s warranty.

And remember, when buying an “as-is” car, you won’t get a dealer warranty because you agree to purchase the vehicle in its current condition. You assume all the risk if something breaks after the sale has been finalized.

How to Buy a Used Car From a Dealership

Learning how to buy a used car from a dealership is crucial for every American since car ownership is a must in most states.

So long as you do your homework and check the car carefully for issues, you should end up with a reliable used car for far less money than a new vehicle. Now all that’s left is to enjoy those drive-thru dinners and weekend road trips!

For more used car buying tips and tricks, review the other automotive articles on our website.

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