What To Consider Before Buying A Used Car

Anytime you’re making the decision to buy a used car, it’s a big deal.  You may shrug it off and play it cool to your family and friends “eh, no biggie” but inside your stomach is flipping, your mind is racing with hundred questions because all over used cars are catching your eye!

You don’t want to project that you haven’t any idea which car would be best for you. All that is quite normal and even though I recommend accepting advice from family and friends, as they can be a great resource, here are some things to consider which will help make that decision easier for you.

What Kind of Car Is Best For You?

It is best to identify what this car is going to be used for.  Besides driving it, what is its’ main purpose?  Is it your lug around town car or truck?  Is it driving your children to school and yourself to work everyday?  Is this a fixer-upper you’re going to be working on with your kid so they can eventually drive it?  Or are you going to be gallivanting about town in it?

These are important questions that help you identify if you’ll need a truck or car, beater or newly used, great on gas or lots of trunk space.  Once you’ve got this figured out, you can move onto browsing.


Now that you’ve identified what service your car will be providing you with, it’s a good time to start browsing classifieds and online dealers.  You may find one dealership caters more to used pickup trucks where another one may tailor to sports cars or family sedans.

Whichever it is you choose, make sure to look on a number of different websites; comparison shop.  Find out what the going rate for that year, model and make is.  This is important to do even if you find a private seller.  That person may be selling for higher than what the current value is.

Also, it needs to be reminded that you are not visiting any dealerships or private sellers yet.  You are simply looking to get an idea of pricing so that you know what you can purchase within your means.

Consider Used Cars


We all have one and most of us live within the means of it (though sometimes we really really hate it).  Now that you’ve figured out which type of used car or truck will be best for you it is time to ask some sticky questions:

Do you have enough money to purchase the vehicle outright?  Will you be financing through a dealership?  Will you be taking out a loan through a bank?  Figuring out your financial situation before purchasing your next used vehicle will help keep your head and bank account balanced.


You may be going into this knowing you are looking for a specific car.  You may be thinking you want an SUV but are unsure of which model or year you prefer.  Maybe your only stipulation is pickup truck but don’t know which brands hold up best.  This is when research comes into play and becomes a very valuable asset.

When you decided what kind of car you need, did you think about how many miles you’ll be putting on it driving to and from work everyday?  Are you in a climate that requires air conditioning or snow tires or both?

Let’s say you’ve found three cars during your browsing whose price and style caught your attention.  Using the year, make, and model of the cars, find out as much information about that vehicle as possible.  Compare and contrast.

Test Drive

Once you get to this point, it is no longer advisable to do it alone.  Bring a friend, confident or loved one with you, not only when going to a dealership but especially when meeting a private dealer.  I actually cannot stress enough how important it is to not be alone when meeting a private dealer.

These are the times in life when you can point to your first grade teacher and say “thank you”; USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM.  That being said, another set of eyes and ears is always a good idea to have around when making a big decision.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up, especially after you’ve done all the legwork of researching and budgeting that you’ve already put yourself driving down the road on a sunny day with the top down and the wind blowing through your hair.  With exhilaration in your veins and a grin from ear to ear you ask your friend, “So, what do you think?!” and they have to startle you out of your dream by reminding you this is a roadster and you ate ramen noodles last night.

Sometimes friends really stink, but sometimes they save you from making a decision based on emotions to one based in reality.  Thanks, Tom…

During your test drive it is important to make conversation with the seller/dealer.  What is your immediate intuition telling you about this experience?  (Again, thank you, First Grade Teacher) What can this person tell you specifically about this car?  How was the general maintenance of this car handled?  Was it grandma’s grocery getter or is the mileage exceptionally high given its year?  Where does it come from and in what climate was it mostly driven?


I know that sounds really specific, but remember, this may be your car so you want to know as much about your future investment as possible.  Also, knowing information about geography can tell you a lot about what to expect.  If this car has been driven in the snow, will the undercarriage be torn or battered?  Will there be marks on the paint from salted roads?  Concrete, gravel and road conditions are very different in the south than in the north.  These are some of the questions you will want to remember to ask the dealer/seller.

Also, now is the time get the VIN number, which is also referred to as the car’s DNA.  This number will be able to give you all the information needed when running a car history report.  (And you thought the research was over.)

Car History

This is an awesome and relatively new way of checking the specific history of the car you’re looking to purchase.  If there was ever any flood and/or fire damage, bad accidents, etc; running a car history is going to tell you that.

There are a couple different sites to use, so go with which one makes you feel most comfortable, but it is always recommended to purchase the history so you have the complete story of the car.  Any reputable dealer or person will be more than happy to provide all the information they can.

As Is

From time to time you’ll see in a description from a private seller “as is”.  This means the car is being sold just as you see it.  99% of the time you will want to steer away from this as the seller is likely wanting to leave out a large chunk of viable information.  If you should decide to move forward with this move, which is highly discouraged, be sure to get it inspected by an honest mechanic and definitely run the car history.

businesswoman receiving keys of her new car

Sign on the Dotted Line

Once you’ve test driven, received the official head nod from your most discriminating friend, run the car history report and decided that this is, indeed, the best used car or truck for you, there is only one more thing left to do and that is purchase.

Given that you didn’t take the test drive and run the car report and return to dealer all on the same day, we would hate to appear easy, you can now return to the seller and proceed with the exchange of goods and services.

You will need to make sure you get the Title, this serves as the official contract between yourself and the seller, the Bill of Sale (although it isn’t required in every state, it is always a good idea to make one regardless) as the state of Kentucky requires it and which should also be notarized.  And even though you already ran your own history report, the seller should include their own history report of the car.

All that is left to do is crank the radio, feel the breeze through your hair and let the road take you where the wind don’t blow so straight.

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