Steps to buying a used car

Buying a used car can provide a great value if you need a new to you car and want to save some money. Buying a car used means you don't have to take the big depreciation hit most new cars incur the minute the first owner drives the car off the dealership lot. Follow these steps to buying and financing a used car to find a good deal.

Set Your Budget

One of the most important parts of shopping for a used car is setting your budget. Finding a car in your price range will prevent the major stress that can come when you buy a car that is more expensive than you can truly afford. When coming up with a car budget, you may want to consider how much your monthly car payment will be, the number of payments you'll have to make as well as any other car related costs such as insurance and gas. Make sure that your car related costs are affordable when you look at them with the rest of your monthly budget. Use the auto loan calculator below to help set your budget.

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Monthly payments are an estimate and are for informational purposes. They do not represent a finance offer. Other tax, license, title, or fees may apply. Disclosures


Research Options in Your Budget

You can start determining what cars you're interested in after setting your budget. Browse used car sales websites and local dealerships to get an idea of what cars will fit in your price range. Make a list of cars you're interested in and then do further research to find out if the particular car year, make and model are reliable cars or cars that aren't worth the hassle. Narrow your list down to the top contenders before you begin the next step. Research is often one of the most time intensive steps to buying a used car, but the time spent will be well worth it.

Find the Used Car You Desire

You can start looking for the exact car you're interested in based on the narrowed down list of cars. Take a look at local car dealerships and websites that have used car listings such as, or to find the exact car you're interested in buying. Once you find a few specific cars you want to look at, give the owners or dealerships a call and set up an appointment to see the cars.

Test Drive & Inspect the Car for Obvious Issues

You should inspect and test drive the car before you move further along in the used car buying process. Take a very close look at every part of the car to see if you can find any mechanic or cosmetic issues that may affect the value or desirability of the car. The visual inspection should be followed by a test drive if you feel the car is safe to drive. When driving the car, pay special attention to any funny sounds or movements the car makes and write down any issues you experienced after you complete the test drive.

Pull Car History Reports

Pulling a car history report is a great way to understand what a used car has experienced during its life. Car history reports should show you if there are any problems such as a salvage title, previous structural damage or airbag deployments if the information has been reported. They will also show how many previous owners the car has had, if there are any open recalls and how many service records are available. This treasure trove of information should give you a good idea if a car is in good shape or if it has had a lot of problems in the past.

It makes more sense to order car history reports after you've had a chance to test drive and inspect the car. Since you can easily disqualify a car for major problems, you'll save yourself some money versus pulling a car history report before you even see the car in person.

Take the Car to a Mechanic for an Inspection

A car can have major mechanical problems even if it has a stellar car history report. For that reason, it may make sense for you to take the car to a local mechanic you trust for a used car inspection. You will have to pay a fee, but the fee could save you from buying a car that may need expensive repairs in the near future. If you're comfortable diagnosing mechanical problems yourself, you may be able to skip this step.

Shop Around for Financing

You'll need to line up financing for your used car if you don't have the money to pay cash. It makes sense to compare multiple used auto loan quotes to make sure you're getting the best overall deal. Consider both fees and interest to find the lowest overall cost loan for your purchase. This step is later in the process because lenders often want to know the year, make and model of the car you're considering buying.

Make an Offer

The final step is making an offer on the car you want. Make sure you research the price you should be paying for a car on websites like in order to get the best deal. Negotiating will likely be a bit different if you're buying from a car dealership versus buying from an individual, but stick to the price you want to pay. If you can't close the deal on one car, another similar car is likely to show up sooner or later. After the offer is accepted, complete any and all paperwork required and enjoy your new to you car.

Buying a used car is a bit different than buying a new car, but the process shouldn't scare anyone away from trying to save some money versus buying a new car. You can even obtain financing for used cars, just make sure you compare multiple used auto loan quotes to find the best deal possible.

ll need to contact your car insurance company, as well make changes regarding taxes, titles and tags. Your local Department of Transportation should be able to give you all of the information you need to make the appropriate changes.
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