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    Are you in the market for a used car? Buying a used car can be stressful.  But there are some things that can really help reduce your stress, as well as your risk of making a mistake. In this article, we'll take you through how to shop for a used car online is easy when you follow these steps.

    Used Car Shopping: Step-by-Step

    If you're looking for a used car, here's what to do:

    • Step 1: Get pre-approved for an auto loan
    • Step 2: Look for used cars online and find a vehicle
    • Step 3: Contact the owner of the vehicle
    • Step 4: Obtain a vehicle history report
    • Step 5: Get a used car inspection
    • Step 6: Purchase your used car


    Use our free car loan request at LendingTree to get quotes from several lenders for your used car loan. By getting pre-qualified for your auto loan, you'll know what kinds of rates you can get, and you'll be able to compare them to other financing offers you may receive. Some used car dealers may be able to offer you a financing option, or have relationships with financing institutions. It's good to know what the best used car loan rates are before you go shopping for your car.

    Look for Used Cars Online

    LendingTree Autos has an inventory of cars available for you to consider. Some people like to search sites like Craigslist or eBay, but there are many places to find used cars. Here's how to use LendingTree Autos to shop for a used car online:

    • Select "new" or "used," then enter the make and model of the car you'd like to buy.
    • A list of vehicles matching your choice will appear, displaying photos, and information on the car, including make, model, mileage, MPG, price, location, and a contact number.
    • If you want more information on a vehicle, click on the details button.
    • Once you've chosen a car, you may call the number listed, click the email button to email the dealer, or fill out the form on the details page.
    • Although you may be able to purchase a used car directly online, we recommend visiting the dealership and taking it for a test drive before you buy.

    As part of your search, consider certified pre-owned vehicles (CPO), which have been inspected and repaired by a mechanic. The seller guarantees the fitness of the vehicle. Your warranty may come from the factory or the dealer. This means that the quality of the inspection and repairs, as well as the terms of the warranty, may vary. Make sure you read the fine print. In general, factory-based CPO vehicles undergo more rigorous inspection and repairs. Expect to spend a little more money for a CPO than you'd pay for a standard used vehicle.

    Contact the Owner

    Once you've found the used car you want, contact the owner. This may be an individual or it may be a used car dealer. Although you may be able to purchase the used car directly online, we suggest you take a look at the car in person, and take it for a test drive. If you're buying from an individual, you may also want to have a mechanic look the car over before you make the purchase.

    Check the Vehicle History

    When you're used car shopping online, often all you need to do is click on the CARFAX link to see if a vehicle has ever had a major repair covered by insurance.

    If there's no CARFAX link, all you need is the VIN number on the used car to run a vehicle history report. In some cases, you may have to purchase the report. Many used car dealers have already run the report and can provide you with a free copy of the vehicle history report when you come in to look at the car or take it for a test drive.

    Each vehicle history report will include a title check, odometer check, accident history, total loss or major repairs, and additional information about the vehicle. Beware of history reports that report odometer tampering, major accidents, failed emission tests, vehicle damage, or other major problems.

    Get a Used Car Inspection

    If you have a repair shop you trust, take the used car there before you purchase. If you don't have a repair shop, take it to a car dealer service department or independent repair shop for the inspection. A good inspection will include looking at the exterior body of the car as well as the internal components. Consider things like the condition of the tires, frame, electrical system, brakes, belts, hoses, and fluids. Ideally, the car should appear to have been well-maintained -- bad tires, worn hoses and old fluids could indicate neglect.

    Make the Purchase

    Once you've followed the steps above, it's time to buy your used car. If you're purchasing from an individual, make sure to get a bill of sale, and have the seller sign over the title to you. If you're at the dealership, they'll walk you through the purchase process.

    What to Do if You Bought a Lemon

    If you have the misfortune of purchasing what you believe to be a lemon, take a look at the lemon laws in your state on the DMV website. The DMV does a good job of helping consumers understand what the laws are and what their rights are if they get a bad deal on a used car. However, we hope you never have to use that information.