The Dos and Don'ts of Buying a Used Car

The Dos and Don'ts of Buying a Used Car

Weekly Wealth Staff
May 26, 2023

Buying a pre-owned car can be a wise financial decision, provided you know what you're doing. When you purchase a used car, truck, or SUV, you'll experience less depreciation and gain access to better overall unit prices (1). Furthermore, shopping for a pre-owned car is better than buying something brand new in almost every scenario(2). If you're looking for the perfect used car at the best possible price, there are a few things you will need to know!

Whether your current car is no longer meeting your needs or you simply need to get an extra vehicle, buying used can be a great solution! When done correctly, buying a used vehicle will let you get the most bang for your buck. So how do you get a used vehicle that's priced fairly and won't let you down? As it happens, that's exactly what we're here to discuss. Without further ado, here are the dos and don'ts of used vehicle shopping.

Do: Make a Game Plan

When you realize that it's time to shop for a vehicle, you're going to need to make a buying plan. First, come up with a reasonable budget. Next, you'll have to decide what year, make, and model, you'd like to get. For families, minivans, SUVs, and midsize crossovers can be fantastic options (3). If you need something for your daily commute, a gas efficient vehicle is always a good choice. For snow, ice, and mud, you might want to shop for used vehicles equipped with AWD. If you aren't sure about the year or model, at least decide which automakers you trust. Some car dealerships sell used cars from specific automakers while others have different makes and models available on the lot.

Don't: Rush Into a Bad Decision

It can be easy to get excited when you're shopping for a vehicle. Sometimes, you'll see a car that seems perfect and want to purchase it on the spot. This effect can be intensified if you drive onto a car lot and a salesman starts offering you incentives. We recommend against making impulse decisions as you browse vehicles. Take your time, compare prices, and do your research. Keep in mind that there are a lot of great vehicles out there. The car market is always getting replenished, so there is absolutely no reason to rush. As they say, haste makes waste! Instead of hurrying, carefully consider your options. Sometimes, it helps to find two or three vehicles and compare them side-by-side. From there, you can make the most logical and successful buying decision.

Do: Look for Used Car Deals and Compare Prices

Decide whether you want to buy a car from a dealership or an individual. Both car shopping methods have advantages and drawbacks. Dealerships are usually a safer bet, but you'll wind up paying more. Purchasing a car from an individual can pose risks, though you'll generally be able to get impressive used car deals. Take your time and do your research on the vehicle you want. Research pricing online before you start car shopping. That way, you'll have a good starting price to compare. There's nothing wrong with comparing dealerships either. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool as well. Ask the people you know about their favorite car dealerships. That way, you can gauge and compare the experiences of others.

Don't: Make a Decision out of Fear of Guilt

Whether you're buying a car from an individual or a car dealership, it's a good idea to leave your emotions at the door. Some people are prone to fall victim to feelings of persuasion or guilt when dealing with others. This can be especially true when negotiating financial terms and figures. If you believe that you're one of these people, it might be smart to shop with a buddy. A trusted friend or family member can help you stick to your guns as you shop. Never make a big financial decision out of guilt or fear. Instead, set your emotions aside and proceed with a logical mindset (4).

Do: Take a Test Drive

Always test drive the vehicle you're interested in. After all, no one likes experiencing buyers' regret! Moreover, you'll need to make sure that you're happy with the way a car handles on the road. Be aware of the seating position and comfort. Is the vehicle a good fit for your driving style? Taking a vehicle on the interstate can help you gauge whether it has transmission or engine issues. As you inspect the interior of the vehicle, test every switch, lock, window, and feature (5). Make sure that the cruise control works, check the headlights, and run the heater and air conditioner. Don't be afraid to voice your concerns after test driving a vehicle either. If a car has issues, bring them up to the seller.

Don't: Forget to Look Under the Hood

Finally, it's smart to make sure to look at the mechanical components of a pre-owned car. If you have a trusted mechanic on tap, it might be wise to see if they can take a look at the car you're interested in. If not, pop the hood and look at things yourself. Check the fluid levels to gauge whether or not the vehicle has been properly cared for. It's also smart to get a VIN report. Many websites offer used vehicle histories and other helpful information. Car dealerships almost always have access to this information and are usually obligated to share what they know with you. Does the car you're looking at have a salvage title? This can be a big red flag. Are there any reported accidents? This is another red flag. A used automobile that's about to break down won't do you much good.

Putting it All Together

To summarize, don't rush when buying a car. Instead, take your time and do your research before looking at vehicles in-person. Remember, there's nothing wrong with comparing prices and taking your time. After all, this is a big financial decision that will impact your day-to-day life! Shopping with a buddy can be helpful as well. When you've found a car that you like, inspect it thoroughly inside and out. Ask for a vehicle report as well to find out if the car you're interested in has ever been in an accident. Armed with the facts, you're less likely to waste your hard-earned cash on a car that's not up to par.


  1. 6 Smart Reasons Why You Should Buy a Used Vehicle, New York Daily News,
  2. Car Depreciation: How Much Is Your Car Worth? Dave Ramsey,
  3. 10 Best Used Family Cars Under $15,000, Kelley Blue Book,
  4. Don’t Let Your Emotions Get The Best Of You When Buying A Car, Financial Samurai,
  5. How to Test Drive a Car, Car and Driver,

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