Tips to Research Used Cars - Angieslist

Tips to Research Used Cars - Angieslist

You can never be too careful when shopping for used car. Follow this advice to avoid having a bad experience.

  • Research the car you’re considering: There are several articles and blogs written by car enthusiasts online. Check websites like and Kelly Blue Book.
  • Secure financing before you shop: Never assume that the financing your car dealership is giving is the best you can get. Secure a loan with a trusted bank or credit union before considering a dealer’s financing package so you can focus on negotiating a price.
  • Check out the seller: If you’re buying from a dealership, check out their reputation on Angie’s List. If you’re buying from a private owner, ask for the car’s maintenance and repair records.
  • Take a test drive: Access the vehicle’s performance in different conditions, such as highway versus local roads, and check basic features like windows and air conditioning.
  • Inspection by a mechanic: Buyers should be cautious of an auto check done by the establishment selling the car. Schedule an independent pre-purchase inspection. It can zero in on leaks, engine problems, trouble with the heating or cooling system or any other sizeable repairs. Highly rated auto service professionals on Angie’s List tell us a half-hour inspection usually costs between $40 and $50.
  • Check federal database for vehicle history: The National Motor Vehicle Title Information system requires all state motor vehicle departments, insurance companies and businesses that deal in salvaged junk or recycled autos to report vehicle history information. A NMVTIS report costs less than $5. Running a report using Carfax, AutoCheck or a similar service is another tool for consumers. However, if a car owner doesn’t file an insurance claim or police report, there will be no record of damage.
  • Compare costs before you shop on the lot: Go online to compare the cost of cars at various auto dealerships to use as leverage in price negotiations.

For more information on financing a used car watch this video.

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Many are in good shape. If you're looking for something newer, search for a certified, pre-owned vehicle that has met its manufacturer's strict guidelines. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sondra M. of Pandora, Ohio)

Because a used car has been driven before, it’s important to do your homework before buying a vehicle. Consider these tips to avoid buying a lemon.

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