A car salesman is handing a couple the keys to the used car they purchased.

How to Get the Best Deal on a Used Car

There are two ways to approach looking for used cars for sale — you’re either prepared or you aren’t. As any deal hunter will tell you, a proper search requires proper preparation. The last thing anyone wants when looking for a used car is to be ripped off, which is why it’s important to do everything in your power to keep that from happening. The point here is it’s up to you.

Walking into a car dealership just because “you’re taking a look,” will almost guarantee something happening that you didn’t foresee. You’ll either be walking out with a new vehicle (which may or may not be a good thing), or you’ll be walking out in a bad mood because you’ve had to fend off some hungry sales-sharks around the lot.

If you walk onto a used car lot with the right mindset and proper preparation, you’ll be just fine, whether you end up buying a vehicle or not. Yes, things may change from preparation to actual in-person visit, but at least a lot of the work will still count, even if you choose a different vehicle. You may wonder if the work is even worth it, but when we’re talking about thousands of dollars going into this future machine, you better believe it’s worth it. That is unless you just happen to have piles of cash lying around. For those without endless bags of money, please read on and check out some of these money-saving tips.

Research, Research, Research

Remember when your teacher would repeat something three times? Yes, because it was important. And it’s no different here. Before stepping foot in a used car dealership, you need to do as much research as possible. This involves finding out specific ranges of information for your future vehicle, including the mileage and year. It would also be important to include the make and model. For a lot of people, the color and certain features (like power windows, USB ports, and All-Wheel Drive) will also play a huge part in the selection process.

If you’ve gone through this process before then, you already know what you’re doing. You probably have a clear picture in mind of what it is you’re looking for, although a few things might vary. Say you want an SUV because you think you might have some off-road adventures. You’d probably want something with All-Wheel Drive or Four-Wheel Drive, but the specific brand doesn’t matter too much to you. However, it can’t be too old because you want some of the more modern amenities, like additional safety features and keyless entry. You also think backup cameras are a must.

Well, those kinds of decisions will definitely narrow things down for you and make the search a lot easier. Sometimes, though, you’ll need to revise things. Going off the previous choices, you might find that a newer SUV with those features is out of your price range. You have two choices: either revise your list of “must-haves” or see about negotiating with a salesman.

Simply revising what you think you need in a vehicle could potentially save you a lot of money. A lot of times, the newer, but not brand new, models will still have high price tags, especially if they have low mileage. That isn’t to say you should go with something you don’t want, but, depending on your budget, expectations might need to be tempered a bit.

As you do your research online, it’s important to stick with dealerships that have clean, easy-to-navigate, and helpful websites. Doing online research isn’t helpful if a dealership’s website doesn’t even list their inventory online, or they don’t update it regularly. You should also stay away from any dealership that has far too many bad reviews to appear reputable, although online reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt (or sometimes a pound). If there are a few for every couple of dozen or hundred reviews, then you can most likely expect the overall service of the dealership to be just fine. It always helps to actually read some of the reviews as well, including from multiple sources, as some of them don’t even seem to make sense.

A man is researching used cars for sale on his laptop and taking notes.


Once you’re about done finishing up your research, there’s bound to be a few burning questions you’ve been meaning to ask someone. Well, now’s the time to do just that. You can either pick up a phone and give the dealership a call or, if you’re in no particular rush, shoot them a message through their website’s contact form (check the bottom of the homepage). Another option on the websites of many car dealerships is to chat with a representative. Of course, whichever way is most comfortable for you will be the best option.

Obviously, one of the first questions you might ask would be one pertaining to the availability of any vehicles you’re interested in. You may have found them on the dealership website, but it’s a fluid business, and things aren’t always updated instantaneously. It would definitely be wise to check the availability before heading there in person, so you’re not wasting any time (which is ultimately a waste of money as well).

Then, it’s up to you for the other questions. You may want to save some of them for an in-person visit, especially if you’re looking to negotiate because that’s a bit of additional pressure on your end.


Negotiating, or haggling, may seem like a foreign concept to many, but you better believe the practice is alive and well, even in North America. The product you’re haggling over may not be a cheap souvenir on your trip overseas (haggling over an actual vehicle raises the stakes a lot), but there’s really no harm in a friendly discussion.

If you don’t think you’d be comfortable bringing up anything that could be seen as even hinting at a haggle — just bring a friend or family member along that would be more comfortable in that situation. Remember, you’re trying to save some money here, and the perfect vehicle in the perfect price range isn’t always going to happen. Sometimes you find a near-perfect vehicle, but it costs more because of an interesting feature that’s ultimately for convenience and nothing else. However, the dealership might not have anything else in stock without that feature that would put it at a lower price range.

This is where a friendly discussion can start. You came to the dealership to find something you wanted, and you’re very nearly there. You’ll find that salesmen actually do want to sell cars, so it would be mutually beneficial for them to help you out in some way. Maybe you can work something out, maybe not. The key is, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Don’t Fail to Prepare

The better prepared will always have better experiences when it comes to most things, especially a used car shopping experience. Apart from the above tips, you may also want to look into financing options, dealer specials, and incentives before making a visit.

At the end of the day, you can feel calm and ready throughout your used car search. All it needs is a little preparation.