How to Find a Used Car

November 25th, 2016 by
finding used car

When looking for a used car it’s easy to find yourself spending way too much time trolling the Internet or worse, driving around to look at cars.


You’ve decided the time has come for you to get a different car, and you’ve decided that a used car makes the most sense to you budget-wise. Now what? It’s easy to find yourself spending way too much time trolling the Internet or worse, driving around to look at cars. What you need is to inject some method into this madness.

Here’s what to do:

What do you want in a used car?

Knowing what you want saves you time, but narrowing it down too much can limit your options. Then again, if you don’t narrow it down at least a little, you might end up pulling your hair out in frustration because of too many options. There are a couple different ways to hit the sweet spot of knowing what you want. First, you can just think about what you want and/or need in a car. Do you need something big enough to haul around a lot of stuff or kids? If so, then you might want to look at wagons, mid-sized SUVs, or even minivans. If you prefer smaller with greater fuel economy, then you can look at small sedans, compacts, and subcompacts, and maybe even some of the smaller hybrids. What kind of transmission do you prefer – automatic or stick-shift? Another way to approach this is to be clear what you don’t want. If you can at least rule some things out and then say what you’re interested in is, for example, mid-sized sedans or small SUVs, then you could go to a dealership that will have a variety of makes/models in those categories and start getting a feel for what appeals to you within your target category. Remember, this an exploratory trip to a dealership, not a bona-fide shopping trip. If they get pushy or pressure you, just walk away. You don’t need that! Once you start to get a better feel for what vehicles might work for you, go to websites like Edmunds and read what other owners have had to say about their experiences with those kinds of cars.

Choose your dealer(s)!

Once you have a better idea of what is you want for a used car, then you can really start the serious shopping process. If you don’t want spend an inordinate amount of time and gas running around to dozens of private sellers to look at cars, stick to used car dealerships that have lots of inventory. Just make sure you go to ones with good reputations. Ask your family and friends where they’ve bought used cars in the recent past and see what they thought of the people and process. It’s also worth looking at real customer reviews of used car dealerships online at sites like DealerRater, Yelp, Google, and so on. Just keep in mind that one bad review among mostly great reviews shouldn’t scare you off.

Let the REAL shopping begin!

If you’re still exploring private party vehicles, make sure you visit some of the many websites available to you to look for what’s available in your area. Sites such as Autotrader, Truecar, Cargurus, Cars.com, Edmunds, and even Craigslist will have lots of options. Just remember, if a deal looks too good to be true, it may be exactly that! Learn how to avoid problem cars with branded titles by reading our previous articles on salvage titles, Collision Cars, Flood and Water Damaged Cars, and Salvage Titles: The Rest of the Story. If you’ve found one or more dealerships you’re pretty sure will give you a great experience, then you can really dive deep into their online inventory listings. You have a much better idea now of what you want, so you can apply different filters in their searchable listings to bring up all the vehicles they have that match your criteria. If you do come across what likes to be a great legitimate deal, don’t waste any time because great deals go fast!

A word about financing.

Part of your research on dealerships should include whether or not they help with financing. If you have great credit, you still want to get the best financing deal possible. Superior used car dealerships will have a network of top lenders who will all compete against each other to get your business, which means better terms for you. If you have not-so-great credit, you need to be thinking about financing options sooner than later in the shopping process. Be up front and honest with the dealership about your credit concerns and find out if they can work with you.

Finally,  since you are reading this blog, why not check out used cars for sale by Auto City? We have a strong selection of carefully selected and reconditioned used cars.

By keeping these tips and strategies on how to shop for a used car in mind, you’ll find yourself in your new ride in no time!