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How to Get the Best Deal on Used Cars

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Buying used cars is a smart option if you want to save money on your purchase. Aside from being more affordable than their brand-new counterparts, they are also cheaper to insure.

The downside, however, is that they often come with poor warranties and outdated technology. They may also have issues after spending quite a long time on the road, from body scratches to fluid leaks.

This is why it is important to have a plan and a strategy if you’re keen on getting the best deal when buying a used vehicle. You not only want to get the car at a great price; you also want it to perform well on the road.

To get the best deal on used cars:

1. Start with research

Just like with buying a new vehicle, the key to making a great deal on your used car purchase is to have enough knowledge about the car and the car market trends. Knowing the average price of the secondhand car will put you in a better position at the negotiating table. It will also keep you from being blinded by a car’s appearance or lured by a smooth-talking seller into buying a vehicle that’s not right for your lifestyle.

When doing your research, pay attention to:

  1. Your ideal pre-owned car’s make and model
  2. Its average price
  3. Mileage
  4. Specs and features
  5. Issues and automotive maintenance work to be done

Once you have the ideal car and price range in mind, don’t skip the online reviews about the vehicle. The experiences of different car owners will help you assess whether or not the car lives up to its claims.

2. See for yourself

It’s a no-no to buy a vehicle that you have not seen in person or taken for a test drive. No matter how convincing the seller’s post is on Facebook or any online marketplace, never commit to purchase unless you check out the car and take it for a test drive. This is the only way to find out if everything the seller says about it is true.

When test driving, pay attention to:

  1. The car’s general condition
  2. Cabin (storage and space, road visibility, comfort)
  3. Safety features
  4. Brakes
  5. Engine
  6. Suspension
  7. Steering
  8. Bearings

Also, always come to the test driving location prepared with your checklist of things to examine and important documents like license. Read more about the importance of test driving here.

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3. Know the difference between private sellers and dealers

Private sellers

Private sellers usually price their vehicles lower than dealers. Most of them do not serve as middlemen nor sell cars for a living. Hence, they are not as skilled as salespeople at haggling. Their reasons for selling the car are also often personal and time-constricted, such as:

  • Moving to another country
  • Paying for emergency bills
  • Needing more money to purchase a new vehicle
  • Making space for a new car in the driveway

When dealing with private sellers, be prepared for a less structured process. Make sure that the car’s title is signed and that the vehicle is insured. Get more tips on buying a used car from a private seller here.


Dealers charge around 10% more than private sellers. The advantages when dealing with these professionals, however, is that they provide a more convenient process for buying a used vehicle. Instead of looking around a thousand different places for a private seller who sells the car you’re looking for, you can easily visit the dealership to look around for a range of cars. Dealers are also likely to provide the used vehicles with some cleaning and inspection before putting them up for sale because they have a reputation to uphold.

When buying a used car from a dealership:

  • Make sure to deal with one that’s certified and licensed to operate in your city or state.
  • Check their social media pages for customer reviews.
  • Ask for any warranty that they are offering for the car and how the warranty will be honoured.
  • Ask for the car’s needed repairs, maintenance, and whatnots.

Moreover, be prepared to negotiate with them. Dealers make a living out of selling cars and, hence, are well-practised in the art of haggling. Make sure to negotiate smartly to get the offer you deserve. Learn how to negotiate with dealers before visiting any dealership.

4. Look into CPO and discontinued models

These vehicles are typically found at dealerships and tend to have less wear and tear than the used cars sold by private sellers.

CPO Vehicles

A Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicle is a used car that has been thoroughly inspected and fixed for any maintenance issues and is usually offered by most luxury brands, like Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

When talking to dealers about a CPO car, ask for the inspection report, which will give you an idea of the car’s parts, areas being checked, and whether or not there were any recalls on the model. Also, be prepared to pay extra.

Discontinued and Slow-selling Models

These cars are sometimes sold under the used vehicle group in dealerships but they are technically not pre-owned. They are cars that have been discontinued or not selling well and are sold at heavily discounted prices to make room for new models

Buying these types of car comes with several benefits, including dealership discounts, low-interest dealership financing, and potential for an increased value if they become popular again.

If you’re keen on buying one of these vehicles, be prepared for:

  • A sharp drop in resale value
  • The difficulty of finding available parts if a repair is needed
  • Possible safety issues
  • Potentially more expensive financing

Knowledge is Power

The key to talking down the price of a used car in good condition is knowing its average selling price. With this knowledge, negotiate with the private seller or dealer firmly yet politely. Let them know that you know what the car is worth and clearly make your case as to why they should accept a lower price (minor repairs, freeing up space for another vehicle, etc.)

If they insist on not selling anything less than the sticker price, be prepared to walk away. If they suggest a price between the sticker price and what you intend to buy the vehicle for, get ready to make a counteroffer. If your offer is refused point-blank, give your phone number and ask them to give you a call if they change their mind. If they don't call, move on to another used car seller and start negotiating again.

Trying to get the best deal on used cars can be a time-consuming and tedious process but once you finally find a great pre-owned vehicle at a great price, it will be all worth the effort.

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