A person is opening a car door at a used car lot.

Stop! Before You Visit a Used Car Lot, Do Your Homework

Most people think that one used car lot is the same as the next, but that is just not so. Just as you’ll find a variety of used vehicles, you’ll also find a number of different used car dealers. Some are down the street; some are online; some are just your friends or neighbors. It’s important to know who you are dealing with and what type of warranties, services, and contracts they offer. With all of this in mind, you’ll find a smorgasbord of used car opportunities, and you will have the best chance to get a used car of your dreams.

Independent Used Car Dealer

So, you’ve started your search for a viable used car, and where do you head first? Of course, an independent used car dealership. You probably are well aware of these businesses in your community. The owners belong to local business organizations. Many support local causes, and your friends and family members have shopped there. Often, they offer good prices for their used vehicles and are more likely to slash prices or provide discounts. Since they are local, you’ll be able to bring your own independent mechanic to check out the vehicle before you purchase it.

On the other hand, these independents are not backed by a national corporation. Many have long roots in the community but can also close shop overnight.

Private Seller

In your quest for a used car, you might turn to online listings from Craigslist or other classified ad websites to find private sellers who are offering their vehicles. Now more than ever, the number of private sellers has increased, but there are many warnings that you need to keep in mind. In most cases, a private seller will want the full amount of the sale up front and in cash or a certified bank check. A private seller has no reason to deal with you after you’ve purchased their vehicle. Once the deal is completed, they do not have to answer to any problems or complications that might arise with the vehicle. Unlike other used car dealers, private sellers will not have financing plans or warranties to offer. What you see is what you get. It’s recommended that you bring your own reputable mechanic to check out the vehicle before you make your purchase.

Another issue to consider is your own personal safety. Driving to any stranger’s home for a private vehicle sale poses many risks, including the risk to your own person.

A line of cars is shown parked at a used car lot.

Rental Car Agencies

When purchasing a used car, it’s always nice to take it on a test drive to get a feel for the vehicle. There’s nowhere better to get a long-lasting test drive than a rental car agency. Here you can actually rent a vehicle that you want to eventually purchase. You’ll find rental car agencies like Enterprise with a website devoted to buying and selling cars. They offer a number of reasons to buy from them: an inventory of one to three-year-old models, cars, SUVs, trucks, and vans; equipped with the latest new technology such as backup cameras and four or all-wheel drive; a CARFAX Vehicle History Report; meticulously maintained and rigorously inspected vehicles; and all used vehicles available through more than 145 dealerships nationwide.

However, keep in mind that rental cars are used often and can be mistreated. Rather than being owned by a single driver, these vehicles have had many drivers.

Buy Here Pay Here Dealerships

If you’ve come upon hard times, perhaps you’ve had to declare bankruptcy a few years ago, or you’ve had a hard time finding full-time work, you might want to try a “buy here pay here” dealership for a used vehicle. These dealerships usually draw people who have bad credit and can not secure a bank loan in a traditional manner. A BHPH dealership will help to finance your purchase, but it can come at a steep price.

Interest rates are usually higher than those of a typical auto loan, there are hefty fees for those who don’t make their payments on time, and you sometimes have to make your monthly payments directly at the dealership in person. However, if you are able to make a deal for the used vehicle, you can start to build your credit rating, and your vehicle will help you get around town comfortably, especially to those all-important job interviews.

Online Used Car Dealerships

The impact of the internet on purchasing used cars is the online used car dealership. Here you can browse hundreds of vehicles in the privacy of your own home at any time of the day. It’s quick and easy to compare photos and videos of different models side-by-side and do research and look for reviews. Once you’ve chosen your vehicle, the dealership brings your purchase to your home or office. You’ll even be able to choose a financing option.

What are the downsides? First and foremost is that you won’t see the vehicle until you receive the delivery. Perhaps the shade isn’t what you expected? Maybe you’re not happy with the way it drives. Look for a reputable online retailer to do business with. They will provide you with vehicle information such as a vehicle history report, maintenance reports, and owner information.

Credit Card Used Car Purchases

Don’t forget to check out your credit card company to see if they offer a used car program. For example, American Express offers its members the Auto Purchasing Program. It’s one of the perks of being an AMEX member. To begin looking for your used vehicle, search for the car on their website and see what others have paid for it. Get the exact pricing you’ll pay at the dealership for your used vehicle, including incentives and fees.

A woman is sitting on the hood of a car and holding a set of car keys.

Superstore Used Car Dealerships

If you aren’t picky about a certain car and need one quickly, your best route might be a superstore used car dealership. These institutions are renowned for having the largest selection of used vehicles and many make it quick and easy with no haggle pricing and no hidden fees. However, the price might be higher than other dealerships.

New Car Dealership

If you still haven’t found the used car of your choice, try a new car dealership to find a new or used model. These dealerships, which are usually affiliated with a major car manufacturer, offer financing assistance and have a service department that will help you through the life of your vehicle. Many of these dealerships offer vehicles that are Certified Pre-Owned (CPO), which means they have been inspected and approved by the manufacturer. Not only do you get a vehicle like new, but you get one that’s undergone a thorough inspection, with the added benefit of the manufacturer’s warranty.

Find Your Used Car Today

As you can see, there are so many different ways to purchase your used car: on a car lot, online, through a friend, or from a rental car agency. If we can give you one last piece of advice before you visit a car seller, it’s to research the model you want to buy. Knowledge is going to be the best tool you have at your disposal.