| Car Life
a person holding keys in front of a used car

If you’re shopping for a used car, you might not know where to begin. Car shopping is exciting, but it can be a little confusing and stressful too – especially if you’re dealing with a seller who wants to put you in their car as quickly as possible. Can you trust them? How can you be sure you’re getting the best deal?

Well, you don’t have to go it alone. Direct Auto has got your back with these tips to help you stand your ground while shopping for a used car, and when you pick out your car, be sure to give us a call to make sure you have the auto insurance coverage you need.

Reasons to Buy a Used Car

There are benefits and drawbacks to purchasing any type of vehicle, new or used, but if you’re car shopping, consider these reasons to buy a used car:

  • Purchasing a used car can help you save money on auto insurance.
  • The value of a used car depreciates less over time.
  • Used vehicles are less expensive than brand new ones, and are usually just as reliable.
  • Older vehicles tend to have cheaper registration fees.

10 Tips for Shopping for a Used Car

There are plenty of tips, tricks, and used car shopping hacks that can help you find your ideal used vehicle. These tips will help guide you in the right direction.


1. Calculate what you can afford & stick to it

Used car salespeople are in the business of moving inventory off their lot, and that inventory might not always match up with the best vehicle for you and your budget. Understanding how much car you can afford helps narrow down your options and prevents you from being pressured into buying a car that’s out of your price range. Try using NerdWallet’s auto loan calculator to estimate a monthly payment you can afford.

It’s also worth noting that a monthly car payment isn’t your only car-related expense. Vehicle costs can add up quickly, and they might catch you by surprise. Don’t forget about the other costs associated with buying a car, like vehicle maintenance, insurance, and title and registration fees. You might even want to calculate possible gas expenses based on vehicle gas mileage estimates if you’ll be driving the car a lot.

2. Do your research

Be sure to read reviews and compare and contrast vehicle makes, models, and financing options to make a well-informed decision. One great way to get the scoop on a specific used vehicle is by browsing message boards or forums dedicated to the car you’ve been eyeing. Find one that discusses the make, model, and year of the vehicle you’re interested in and see what other owners have to say.

You’ll learn about things that only vehicle owners can speak to, which could help you avoid buying a vehicle that is costly to maintain. It could also help you avoid a potential price trap and give you more leverage when it comes time to settle on a price. For instance, say the transmission in the 2015 truck you want tends to fail way before its time. A dealer may offer this truck at a rock bottom price to get it off the lot, but if you’ve been doing your research, you’ll know to run far, far away from this price trap.

3. Compare prices from multiple dealerships

Shopping around is so important if you’re searching for the perfect used car. You may find a great deal at your first stop, but you could find an even better one at the next dealership. Keep track of prices by taking photos and notes.

4. Test drive more than one vehicle

You may be set on a specific make and model, but try to keep an open mind and test drive a few different types of vehicles. For example, maybe your dream car actually comes with a huge blind spot, or you notice that the engine makes a knocking noise that gets louder as you pick up speed, which usually indicates damage. You won’t know until you get behind the wheel!

5. Shop at an opportune time

These tricks might save you money if you’re headed to a dealership. By shopping at the end of the month, quarter, and year, you can generally get better prices, according to U.S. News. At these times, dealerships could be trying to meet sales goals, meaning they’re eager to sell. You can also try shopping during a sales event or the end of a model year. After all, when the new version of the car you want is on the way, the older used models could be cheaper.

6. Get a vehicle history report

If you’re shopping for a used car, a vehicle history report is non-negotiable. It offers insight into a car’s past, so you can make a more informed decision about how much you should pay for the vehicle – or whether you should buy it at all. A vehicle history report includes information about a vehicle’s ownership, title status, accident history, service history, safety recalls, mileage, and more. All you need is the vehicle’s VIN number to get started.

Reputable dealers offer free Carfax reports for the cars they have for sale. If a used car listing online doesn’t include a link to a free Carfax report, request one. After all, this is your money and your decision. You deserve to drive away in a safe, reliable vehicle – not one that’s full of hidden problems that are expensive to fix and compromise your safety.

7. Inspect the car closely & have an expert look at it

While a vehicle history report can give you a wealth of information about the car you want to buy, it doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. For example, it won’t tell you about the mechanical condition of the car or whether some parts are worn out or prone to early failure. Popular Mechanics has a comprehensive used-car checklist that can help you understand what to look for in every part of your car, plus the dealbreakers. Also, get a specialist to look at the vehicle to be safe.

8. Don’t get “curbstoned”

Instead of only visiting dealerships, some people also shop for vehicles on internet marketplaces. If you’re shopping this way, beware of getting “curbstoned.” This type of scam is named because people perceive a car to be more valuable when it’s being sold by an individual on a residential street instead of a used car lot, according to Road and Track. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever buy a car from an individual on the internet; it just means you need to be cautious. Road and Track notes certain laws might actually make this vehicle sale illegal, so ask to see the vehicle title and a vehicle history report. Also, inspect the car closely with the tips we shared above so you don’t get scammed.

9. Know that it’s okay to walk away

It doesn’t matter if the person trying to sell you a used car has spent a lot of time answering your questions. It doesn’t matter if they tell you that they missed out on another sale because they were helping you. It doesn’t matter if they say they’re disappointed. The only thing that matters is that you get the safe, reliable car you want at a price you can handle. If you have any hesitations, it’s okay to walk away.

10. Compare car insurance prices

The car buying process can feel like a maze. Don’t let the twists and turns cause you to overlook the fact that a new car and car insurance go hand-in-hand. Getting car insurance quotes for multiple makes and models can give you a better idea of how much certain vehicles will cost to own.

When you get car insurance with Direct Auto, there’s no room for skepticism. Our friendly, knowledgeable agents will work with you to make sure you receive all of the discounts you’re entitled to and that you’re set up with a customized payment plan that works for your budget. Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732) or come into a Direct location near you to learn more today!

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