Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Getting a good deal on a used car:

Shopping for a used car can be stressful and intimidating for many hopeful car buyers.
By Motherpedia
Date: March 01 2012
Tags: cars, secondhand,
Editor Rating:

Shopping for a used car can be stressful and intimidating. But you can get a good deal on a used car, if you know how to manage the process. Follow these simple steps to help you get the best deal on a used car!

    1)      Do Your Research:

Before you look at the first car, spend time researching the value, reliability and resale value of cars that might interest you. Online pricing and review sites can also be incredibly helpful in narrowing your list of car choices. Websites like, and will all give detailed pricing guides based on the model, color, options and region, which will give you a good idea of how much you can expect to pay for a certain car. Know the values for dealer retail, trade-in value and private party values.

   2)      Consider Buying From an Individual:

You will almost always get a better deal if you buy directly from an individual rather than at a dealership. Private party values are always about 20% less than retail prices, and in most states, you won’t have to pay sales tax. If you buy from an individual, always take the car for a test drive, and if possible, to a trusted mechanic for an evaluation. Individual sellers are not obligated to the same “truth in advertising” standards that dealers are subject to, so you have to be more diligent in your inspections. If a seller will not allow you to test drive the vehicle or pay for a mechanic’s evaluation, keep looking. 

   3)      Consider Buying Online:

Many cars are available through online auctions sites, such as eBay. You may be able to get a much better deal if you buy through an auction site. But the risks are often greater, as you may not be able to test drive or inspect the car. Be sure to read the auction guarantees carefully before bidding on a car online.

   4)      Get Your Money:

Arrange your financing before you begin your shopping at a dealership or with a private individual. Credit unions and local banks often offer much better financing deals than dealerships, especially if your credit is less than perfect. Online options may also offer you an attractive financing package, even if you plan to buy from a private owner.

   5)      Know the Deals:

Many dealerships offer coupons or online discounts for used cars. Check dealer websites before you visit the location to see if any coupons are available. You may also get a better deal if you start the process with the online sales team, and negotiate in person when you arrive at the dealership.

   6)      Know Your Needs and Be Flexible:

Do you need a vehicle that can haul heavy loads? Do you often have more than three passengers? Do you have a long commute and need good petrol mileage? Think about what you need in a vehicle, and make a list of priorities. If gas mileage is most important to you, consider hybrids or cars with smaller engines. If you drive a carpool, you will likely need a 4-door car or maybe even an SUV with a third seat. Many cars look attractive on the lot or in commercials, but they may not be the right fit for you.Try not to limit yourself during your initial research and shopping phase. Be open to a wide variety of manufacturers, colors, and options. The more flexible you are, the more likely you will be to find a great deal.

   7)      Visit Several Dealerships and Drive Several Cars:

Once you have arranged your financing, know what incentives you might be eligible for, and know what type of car you want, it’s time to start shopping! In many cities, car dealerships are often clustered in the same area of town. Set aside a whole day to visit several dealerships and drive several cars. Be prepared for the process when you drive on to a dealership lot. At most dealerships, the sales staff works primarily on commission, so they are eager to talk to you as soon as you arrive. If you want to browse on your own, then tell them so. Politely say, “I am browsing now, and I’ll come in to talk with you if I have questions or would like to test drive a car.” Never buy the first car you drive or from the first dealership you visit. A new car is a huge investment, and you want to be sure you are buying the best car for you and the best price. Even if you have settled on a particular make and model, drive several cars from at least 2-3 dealerships. Every car will drive slightly differently, and you might like the handling and comfort of one particular car best.

   8)      Learn to Haggle:

There is always a significant mark-up on used cars. No sales associate is ever telling the truth if he or she says the car is priced at “cost” or that the dealership isn’t making a profit. That would be a lousy business plan if it really happened that way. Your initial research should give you an idea of the reasonable cost for the particular car you want to buy. If the price is significantly more, it’s fair to ask why. Often, you can negotiate a price 25-30% lower than the asking price on a used car. Negotiate a “drive-out” price instead of a purchase price. This is the final price you will pay for the purchase price, taxes and any dealer fees. With a drive-out price, you know exactly what you are paying and won’t be surprised when you sit down to sign paperwork. Dealers can always adjust the purchase price, taxes and fees based on your negotiated drive-out price. Price isn’t the only thing you can negotiate. Most dealerships have service, body and retail divisions. You can ask for service package, accessories or custom bodywork as part of the negotiation. You might even ask for a free dealership warranty (never pay for a dealership or third-party warranty).  If the deal you are offered isn’t exactly what you want, don’t be afraid to walk away. The price often drops a bit more once you leave and they try to get you back.

   9)      Timing is Key: 

Know the best time to look for a new car. The end of the month is often a better time to negotiate a good deal than the beginning of the month. Since the sales staff works on commission, they want to make as many sales as possible before the month’s end. It might only mean a discount of a few hundred dollars, but you are more likely to get that discount late in the month. The middle of the week is also generally a better time to shop and negotiate than the weekends. Most sales happen on the weekends, so the sales staff are often eager to complete a sale during the work week. If you can shop during regular business hours during the work-week, you might find more willing sales associates.

  10)     Know Your Rights: 

Every state has different “lemon laws” and return rights. Know your rights in case the car isn’t what it seems. Make sure you also understand your warranties. Manufacturer warranties are always safer than dealership or third-party warranties.

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