Every year, people buy over twice as many used cars as they do new ones, and that number is only climbing as more people realize how much value new cars lose within their first few years on the road. Buying a used car can be a very smart move, protecting you against major drops in value and helps you stay away from expensive car loans you might regret later.
Of course, not every used car is a good deal. Finding a great one can feel daunting, but with the right platform on your side, you'll be able to browse a wide selection of used cars for sale easily. On PrivateAuto, a consistent, thorough listing process helps you compare apples-to-apples with every car you consider, and tools (like a secure online messaging system) make the buying process even faster.
In this guide, we'll go through all the steps you should follow when buying a new-to-you used car so that you can make a smart purchase with confidence.
1. Set an Affordable Budget
Overpaying for a used car is a bad idea, but the amount you pay isn't only based on how much a car is worth. Before even starting your used car search, you have to consider what you can actually afford.
When setting your budget, you can't simply say you've got X amount available in cash today. In addition to the cost of purchasing the car, you need to factor in the following:
- The cost of a vehicle emissions test and/or safety inspection, if required by your state.
- The cost of vehicle registration in your state.
- The initial cost of repairs or maintenance.
- The cost of insurance in your state.
- The cost of warranties or additional coverage you're considering.
2. Decide What Type of Car You'd Like
Figuring out how to find used cars for sale requires an understanding of the used car you're willing to consider. As you think about all the cars available, you can quickly come up with a list of features you need and want by answering questions like:
- How many people need to fit in your car?
- How much cargo space do you require?
- How much towing capacity do you need?
- What fuel economy are you aiming for?
In addition to these questions, which define the type of used car you need, also consider your wants. Power windows and locks; power seats; heated seats; a leather interior; and so on all define "wants" that you might pass up for the right deal, even though you hope to check them off your list.
3. Know Where to Look
The next logical question is: "How do I find used cars for sale near me?" Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there. Many people turn to their local section of Craigslist, but -- more often than not — they go online. There are now modern platforms like PrivateAuto that make buying a car so much easier.
- TrueCar.com: Shop new and used inventory online.
- Carvana.com: Shop used vehicles online for pick up or delivery.
- CarMax.com: Shop used vehicles available at 200 locations nationwide.
- AutoTrader.com: Shop new and used inventory online with virtual dealer services.
- PrivateAuto.com: Buy directly from a private party and keep costs down.
If you aren't already familiar with PrivateAuto, consider it your one-stop solution in your used car search. You can easily contact sellers, make offers, schedule test drives, and even sign state documents from the comfort of your own home.
4. Inspect The Car Carefully
As you compare listings and begin deciding which car you think you want to purchase, it's important to do your research. Understand the following aspects before making any commitments:
- Consider the make, model, and year of the car. Are there any recalls or known reliability issues?
- Look at the car's valuation on Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds. Make sure you take into account the car's mileage and condition.
- Aim for a low mileage vehicle. The more miles a car has, the more likely it is to need repairs.
- If you want a great deal, consider overlooking cosmetic issues. At the same time, don't assume a car that's cosmetically clean is mechanically sound.
If you're able to view the car in person, it's a good idea to bring someone with you who's familiar with cars and can look at it from a mechanical perspective to make sure you're getting a good deal.
5. Consider Warranties and Insurance
Once you buy a used car, you'll need to cover it with at least the state minimum insurance. However, the state minimum only protects you from liability in the event that you cause an accident. If you want to protect your investment, consider comprehensive insurance and an extended used car warranty, also known as a "vehicle service contract."
A vehicle service contract is a type of warranty available for used cars. While it may not cover everything that the original factory warranty covered, it can help protect you from major repair costs. Some plans even cover the little things, like your A/C, power locks, and power windows. The type of plan you choose will depend on your budget and the age of your car, since older vehicles are more likely to experience issues that will land you in the repair shop.
The reason why a warranty can factor into your decision is because the cost of a vehicle service contract is based entirely on the reliability and age of the vehicle. So, a car with more miles or known issues is going to cost you more to protect. These are things you should factor into your decision because they'll cost you in the long run.
Get Behind The Wheel of a Great Car
With so many listings out there, finding a dependable used car can feel overwhelming when you first begin your search. However, once you start understanding your own needs, narrowing down all of those listings is very simple. From there, you just need to count on the right tools to help you draw comparisons and make a decision.
Here at PrivateAuto, we believe buying a used car should be a fast, straightforward process. That's why we've implemented all sorts of useful features, including secure online messaging, state documents, and electronic signatures, to make buying your next car a breeze. Ready to get started? Browse the listings available in your area.