If you’re thinking about buying a used car, make sure you do your research first. Going for a used car will certainly diminish your upfront costs. However, if you don’t do your research beforehand, you may end up pouring your savings into maintenance and repair for a faulty vehicle. There are plenty of options out there – more than 40 million used cars are sold every year in the United States. With some careful strategizing, you can find the best used car for your needs.

Buying used cars can be risky for drivers who don’t know how to confirm a vehicle’s history. After all, a dealer or seller is motivated to get rid of the car. They may not tell a potential buyer about all its bumps and bruises. Additionally, determining the fair value of a used car can pose a challenge. Luckily, buyers have options. Between vehicle history reports and the Kelley Blue Book (KBB), drivers can research whether a particular deal holds up to scrutiny. The sections below describe how to buy a used car and tips on selling one.

How to Buy a Used Car

1. Decide on a Vehicle Type and Price Tag

Before buying a used car, decide what kind of vehicle you need. Do you frequently transport a whole team of soccer players and all their gear? A larger SUV or minivan might be right for you. Are you typically a solo driver who travels light? A small two-door coupe could suit your needs.

Additionally, you should also consider your preferences. When buying used cars, you have less control over the available options. Make a list of what features are must-haves and which features are merely nice to have. Take into consideration safety scores and consumer ratings when deciding.

Finally, used car buyers should have a clear idea of what they’re willing to pay. Before beginning the car search in any capacity, used car buyers should set a maximum budget and refuse to stray from it.

2. Browse the Local Used Car Market

When buying a previously owned vehicle, you’re either buying a used car from a dealer or buying a used car from a private seller. Each options has its pros and cons. Private sellers and dealers both have to be upfront about the history of the vehicle. However, dealers may be more skilled at negotiation, which can affect your final price tag.

Begin your search online by browsing local dealership websites or individual postings. Websites like Craigslist often have numerous used cars posted for sale, but beware – you could be caught in a scam. After searching through the listings, put together a selection you prefer.

3. Look up the Vehicle History Report

The next step on the used car checklist is to get a vehicle history report on your potential options. The report can reveal whether the car has been in any serious accidents, the odometer statement on record and any relevant recalls. All you need to obtain the report is the vehicle identification number.

This step is important because there is no used car lemon law protection in most states, particularly with a private seller. If you buy a used car that turns out to be faulty, generally, you’re on your own. Performing the VIN check can give you peace of mind and reduce the chances that you buy a lemon.

4. Contact the Seller and Examine the Car

Once you’ve decided on a vehicle, arm yourself with the KBB used car value and contact the seller about the car. Ask the owner if you can take the car for a test drive to make sure it runs smoothly. Examine the vehicle, including features like the engine, A/C and the window function. Take a look at the cargo area and back seats. If it looks sound and the vehicle history report showed nothing alarming, you can begin negotiations.

Use the KBB used car value as a good starting point. Remember the maximum budget you set, and don’t let negotiations rise above that price. If they do, walk away. If you are comfortable with the price and the car, you can make a deal.

5. Take Ownership of the Car

After buying a used car, make sure you submit all the necessary paperwork required. You may need to obtain and submit a bill of sale from the seller to register and title your vehicle, depending on which state you live in. Bring the bill of sale, an odometer statement and proof of insurance to your local DMV office. You will need to transfer the car title and register the car in your name. Once you have completed the process – congratulations! You have successfully purchased a used car.

Tips for Selling a Used Car

If you’re trying to sell a used car instead, there are some things you should know about the process. Selling a vehicle will likely get you a better price than trading it in with your dealership, which means it’s worthwhile. However, you will have to handle paperwork, negotiations and a bit of marketing to generate interest in your vehicle.

The best way to sell a used car is to make potential buyers feel as though the car is new. Before taking pictures of your car to put it on the market, give it a thorough cleaning. That means vacuuming all the nooks and crannies of your car. Wipe down all the surfaces to remove dust or dirt, and then hire a cleaner or detailer to help polish up the inside. Give your car thorough attention outside, cleaning everything from the tires to the grille. By cleaning away the evidence of use, buyers will be more inclined to make the sale. A clean, shiny car appears newer and more reliable than a dirty car with evidence of neglect.

Finally, remember to take your car to a mechanic for a good inspection. Selling a used car is easier if you have documented evidence that the car has been maintained. Once your car is all cleaned up, you can take pictures and create a listing.

Look at the KBB used car value of your vehicle to estimate an appropriate price. Remember that the value is an estimate – if your car is in exceptionally good shape, you can charge a bit more. If it’s not doing so well, you may be better off pricing your car as competitively as possible.

The last step to sell your used car is to transfer the vehicle title over and produce a used car bill of sale. The bill of sale is necessary to prove that the car has changed hands. The bill of sale should include an odometer statement, a receipt of sale, both parties’ names and the VIN.

Last updated on Friday, February 28 2020.