Tips for buying a used car
Buyer Tips

Tips for Buying a Used Car

By Auto Auction Mall Team Updated: 07/09/2022 Posted: 09/05/2018

For the majority of people, buying a used car is the best, or in some cases only, option for acquiring their next vehicle. Of course, buying a used car makes sense from a financial point of view, since depreciation is much lower, and the car will be much cheaper than a new car, to begin with. However, for many people buying a used car can be an intimidating experience. Not every car owner or used car dealer is completely honest about the condition and the history of the car. So, in light of all of that, here are some tips to help you choose your next vehicle.

Finding a Used Car

Finding a used car

When it comes to finding a used car, there are a variety of methods you can use and places you can search.

You can look for ads for used cars on Craigslist, and then go physically see the car. You can also check out websites like, where cars are sold online regularly. If the idea of buying a car at an auction appeals to you, places like Auto Auction Mall and eBay Motors are great places to start looking. If you want to check out cars in person, there are always local outlets like newspapers or local dealerships where used cars are sold regularly.

Used Cars For Sale


It is essential that you always be conscious of who you are buying from. If you are buying from a dealership, look them up on the internet and see if there are any reviews or ratings on them. Chances are, if they have been around, you will find excellent info on how they proceed and if they are trustworthy.

If you are buying from a private seller, make sure that you are aware of who the previous owner of the car is, and that the car’s historical documents, accident records, and tax info are readily available by the seller from the start. If the seller does not provide those documents upon request, be cautious.

In short, do your best to make sure you are buying from a reputable and trustworthy seller.

Vehicle History Reports

A vehicle history report is an extensive review of the details of the car, including previous owners and any significant events. You can see if the car was involved in an accident or legal complications (theft or outstanding tickets). The report will also let you know if the car underwent any repairs or changes in its lifetime.

At a website like, you can find a history report on any car. To do so, you will need the car’s VIN. You can usually see this code on the car’s official documentation, or on the driver’s side door or engine block. You will have to pay to get this, but the money you spend on this information is worth it. However, a history report is not enough due to an accident not being reported, for example.


The average American spends about 13,000 miles on the road per year, according to the US Transportation Authority. However, depending on age group, the numbers can be as high as 15 or 16,000 or as low as 5,000 miles per year. Although, whenever you are checking out a car you might be interested in, find out how many years it has been on the road and do the math. A 10-year old car should not exceed 130,000 miles. If you see a 10-year old vehicle with 180,000 miles on it, think twice before buying it. It is more likely than that the vehicle has problems and the seller is trying to hide them. Fewer miles mean better value. You’ll pay more for a car with lower mileage.

Simple Inspections of the Car

Even before paying for a history report online or looking for a mechanic, certain things cannot be missing from a car. You should make a mental list of these things and check them off as you inspect the car yourself.

Two sets of keys. The manufacturer always issues a spare.

Title/ Deed. Deeds prove ownership of the car and show it can be driven legally on the road.

Insurance information. You should find out the last time the vehicle was insured and how much it cost. If monthly insurance fees are much higher than usual, an accident is a likely cause.

Maintenance records. Unless you are buying a classic vehicle, which is 20+ years old, you should expect a maintenance record. These records usually come with the car as the manufacturer sets mileage benchmarks to review the car for safety.

– Owner’s manual. Just about everything comes with an owner’s manual, from a computer to a car. If you do not see one, ask about it as the manual usually also contains the maintenance records and deadlines set by the automaker.

Getting a Mechanic to Inspect the Vehicle

A mechanic’s inspection are will reveal any signs of repair and damages on a vehicle. This damage may or may not be in any car history report. Not only that, but it will also give you a better insight into the actual condition of the vehicle. A report will clear any doubts you may have about the car in general. If you find damage on the vehicle, you can use that to your favor to bargain on the price. If you are not confident about the assessment the mechanic made, don’t hesitate to ask for a second opinion.  In general, an inspection runs between $50-100 in the US. You should expect similar ranges elsewhere based on national income standards

Prices to Expect

Before setting out on an adventure to find a car, it is vital that you set your budget and do your research. Find out which cars are the best deals within your price range. You will want to know the best offers for individual vehicle classes you interested in, whether it be a pickup truck, sedan, or a coupé. You can find the True Market Value (TMV) based on local area values for cars on Edmunds. Alternatively, you can check out Kelley Blue Book for the values of vehicles and see what fits your budget.

If you find a good car with good value and everything checks out, you can haggle. Bargaining is an excellent approach to getting a lower price whether from a private seller or dealer. When making a deal with a private seller, try and get a warranty, especially on more pricey vehicles. The first few weeks or even days can reveal a lot more about a car.

If you inspect the vehicle (as is recommended) both you and the seller will be better informed of the value of the car from mechanic’s report. Aim for a warranty from the seller at all times, even at the cost of not getting a lower price. The warranty adds value to the car and gives you more security should the car reveal issues after you buy it.

Insurance Costs

One significant piece of information to have before making the final decision is the yearly cost of the vehicle. This cost boils down mostly to the insurance costs. The vehicle’s insurance history will give you a good insight on this. The best thing to do is to contact your insurer as they will provide you with a free quote.

Your insurer may not give you the lowest price, but the values they give will serve as a rough estimate. Ask them how much you will spend yearly and monthly to maintain the vehicle. If costs are higher than what you expect, factors like debts may be behind it. You should ask your insurer about the reasons behind the cost.