Buying a Used Car: Tips and Tricks

Many people find used cars an attractive, affordable alternative to a new car purchase. The popularity of used cars has also increased because cars over the last 15 years have become more durable and reliable, ensuring a great supply of long-lasting, drivable used cars. There are many makes and models of used cars available, and you may need help deciding what you want and how you want to buy it. This guide explores many of the potential options you currently have in selecting and purchasing a used car. Even a used car can be quite costly, so choosing a car that is in good condition, reliable, and affordable can save you a great deal of money. 

User-Friendly Used Cars: Purchasing Websites

USAA’s auto buying site allows you to price used cars by make and zip code and get a free quote for USAA auto insurance. Costco’s service provides discounts on used cars to anyone who is a Costco member, as well as seasonal discounts. GEICO’s auto service has a phone number which allows you to talk with a program representative at any time. Consumer Reports has a detailed site that allows you to compare cars by quality ratings, estimate repair costs, and select cars by make, model, and year. Carfax allows you to sort searches by make, model, location, certified used, and number of owners. has an easy search function that can allow you to pull from a vast selection of models by entering answers to a series of questions on their main page.

Hints and Tips: Advice Websites

Some other sites provide guides on the steps you should take when buying a used car and information on the value of a potential purchase. Edmunds offers a simple 10-step guide on how buyers should evaluate their used car purchases. In addition to its car buying site, Consumer Reports also provides a specific guide to used car purchases, with info on the pluses and minuses of choosing to buy used cars, a list of the best used cars under $20,000, and a list of the ten least reliable cars. The Penny Hoarder’s guide details the best times of year to buy a used car and how you can check a used car’s history. Carfax has a short, step-by-step guide on the specific physical aspects you should look at when investigating a used car. Kelley Blue Book allows users to look up the value of a prospective trade-in car as well as look up market values for used vehicles in their areas.

Tips from Experience: Advice from Other Used Car Buyers

It can be useful to research money factor, residual, and monthly/regional incentives before you walk into a dealership, so you will know exactly what the used car should cost before you begin negotiations with the dealer. Using an online car loan calculator can help you determine the real cost of your used car purchase, should you decide to lease a used car or buy it on time rather than purchasing outright. You can also utilize Facebook to buy used cars in two ways. The more “official” method of searching is through Facebook Marketplace, which allows you to search cars by type, body style, make, model, and mileage. You may also find it helpful to simply state on your own personal Facebook page that you are looking for a used vehicle, and see what kind of offers you get. You may find a better value this way than searching through “official” channels and used auto merchants. If you have particularly bad credit, you may find it a good idea to consider Carvana, which does not require a minimum credit score and features home delivery of your chosen used car.  

Multiple methods of choosing and buying used cars are now available to the discerning buyer. Make sure you don’t buy a clunker that breaks down in a month with the services and advice listed here. Any car - even a used one - is a major investment, and your used car will depreciate in value further the longer you own it. Obtaining a high quality used car that will last a considerable length of time is a crucial skill if you want to save money, so be careful, give adequate time to consider your purchase, and utilize the services and advice we listed here to select the best option for you. 

If you live in the Fredericksburg area, you will likely be using your used car every day and potentially put a great deal of wear on it, so don’t make your decision lightly, and pick as high quality a product as you can afford for your budget. You should always have your local mechanic check the used car you are interested in before committing to a specific vehicle - this may save you from a potential money pit! This is especially important because, while Virginia has a Lemon Law, it is only valid within 18 months of the manufacturer’s warranty going into effect for the first owner. Since you are buying used, this law cannot benefit you.