Buying Used Cars – A Review Guide to Smart Purchases

Patrick Oziegbe
Updated On:

Are you tired of dreaming of a car that’s out of your budget? Do you want to hit the road in your vehicle without breaking the bank?

Look no further than the world of used cars. A used car isn’t just a way to save money – it’s a gateway to exploring the open road with a vehicle that’s perfect for you.

But with so many factors to consider – from make and model to body style and condition – it can be overwhelming to navigate the used car market independently.

That’s where we come in. We’ll guide you through finding the perfect used car, from exploring buying options to understanding warranties and financing.

And if you’re looking for extra peace of mind, we’ll introduce you to Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars that undergo thorough inspections and come with a manufacturer’s warranty.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned pro, we’ll equip you with the knowledge and confidence to make the most informed decision and hit the road in your perfect used car.

Key Takeaways

  • Assessing a used car’s condition and body style is essential for a well-informed purchase.
  • Consider multiple buying options, including Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, for added assurance.
  • Explore financing, trading, and warranty possibilities to understand your ownership options fully.
Used Cars
©Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Why Consider Used Cars?

Buying a used car can be a smart choice for many reasons.

First, the cost of a used car is significantly lower than that of a new one, with average prices around $20,000 compared to $37,000 for new cars. This means you can save a substantial amount of money upfront.

Additionally, used cars often offer better value. When you purchase a new car, it depreciates considerably faster.

With a used car, you can benefit from the initial depreciation without burdening it. Plus, used cars today are more reliable than ever, thanks to advancements in technology and manufacturing.

Remember, by choosing a used car, you’re saving money and getting a reliable vehicle that still has much life left. Checkout how CarMax used cars market works here.

Understanding Car Models and Makes

The make refers to the brand of the vehicle, like Ford, Toyota, or Honda, while the model is the specific product within that brand, such as the Ford Mustang, Toyota Camry, or Honda Civic.

For example, when someone mentions a Honda Accord, “Honda” is the make, and “Accord” is the model.

Each make typically offers a variety of models, and these models come in different body styles, engine types, and trim levels.

Popular makes

When searching for used cars, you’ll come across popular makes like:

  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Toyota
  • Chevrolet
  • Nissan
  • Hyundai

Remember that each of these brands will have several models to choose from. For example, Toyota offers compact cars like the Corolla, sedans like the Camry, SUVs like the RAV4, and trucks like the Tacoma.

Similarly, Nissan has the subcompact Versa, the midsize Altima, the SUV Rogue, and the truck Frontier.

When considering a used car, it’s essential to prioritize your needs and preferences. Are you looking for a fuel-efficient compact car for city driving, or do you need a spacious SUV for family road trips?

By identifying your priorities, filtering through a car make’s various models will become a lot easier.

Different models from the same make can also have varying insurance rates, so it’s essential to consider that while searching for your used car.

Variety of Body Styles

It’s essential to consider the different body styles available. Each type of vehicle offers unique features that cater to various needs and preferences.

In this section, we will explore some of the most common body styles you’ll come across in the used car market.


Sedans are popular for many drivers, providing a comfortable and practical option for everyday use. They typically have four doors and can seat up to five passengers.

With ample trunk space for luggage or groceries, sedans are an excellent option for families or individuals who need a reliable daily driver. Examples of sedans include the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion and the very popular USA car, the Honda Accord.


SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles) have become increasingly popular due to their versatility. They offer more passenger room than sedans and a larger cargo area that can be accessed using the rear liftgate.

Many SUVs also have higher ground clearance and available all-wheel drive, which helps tackle rough terrain or adverse weather conditions. Popular SUV models include the Ford Explorer, Toyota RAV4, and best used Honda CR-V.


Coupes are sporty, two-door vehicles that typically have a sleeker design and lower roofline than sedans.

They can seat four or five passengers, but with limited rear space, they are better suited for couples or individuals prioritizing style over practicality. Some popular coupes include the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Audi A5.


Minivans are the ultimate family vehicles, designed to accommodate larger groups with spacious interiors and sliding doors for easy access.

With seating for up to eight passengers and numerous configurations for cargo and seating arrangements, minivans are perfect for those who regularly transport kids, pets, and belongings. Standard minivan models include the Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Toyota Sienna reliable used models.

Pickup trucks

Pickup trucks are ideal for those who need a workhorse vehicle or want to tackle off-roading adventures. They come in various sizes and configurations, from compact to full-sized trucks.

With powerful engines and spacious cargo beds, pickup trucks can easily handle heavy loads and tow trailers. Famous examples are the Ford F-150, Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado best versions.

As you explore the used car market, consider which body style best suits your needs and lifestyle.

A wide variety of options are available to suit your preferences and requirements, from sedans and SUVs to coupes, minivans, and pickup trucks.

Buyer’s Guide to Pricing

The average prices

First, research the average prices for the specific make and model you’re interested in. Websites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds are valuable resources for this.

Remember that the car’s age, mileage, and condition will affect its price, so consider these when comparing your options.

The car history

When you find a car you’re interested in, look at its history. This can give you insight into potential issues or repairs the vehicle may require, impacting the overall price.

Vehicles with a clean history and well-maintained records command higher prices than those with past problems or inconsistencies.

Timing of purchase

Next, consider the timing of your purchase. Ideally, it would help if you shopped for a used car when there’s a higher supply and lower demand, such as at the end of the year or during major holidays like Labor Day.

During these times, you may find more options and lower prices, as dealers are more eager to make sales.

Although you may be searching for the cheapest new cars, remember that the initial purchase price is just one factor to consider.

Factor in variables such as insurance, maintenance, and fuel efficiency, as they will impact your overall cost of ownership.


Lastly, don’t hesitate to negotiate. If you clearly understand a fair price for the car you’re interested in, you’ll be in a stronger position to discuss the terms of the sale. Remember, being friendly and respectful during negotiation can go a long way.

Evaluating a Used Car’s Condition

It’s essential to consider its conditionage, and mileage.

Start by inspecting the car’s exterior and interior. Check for signs of wear, dents, and rust. Remember to examine under the hood for any signs of leaks or damage.

Next, inquire about any recent repairs and request a vehicle history report. Companies like Carfax and AutoCheck provide reports that reveal past accidents, title issues, and more. These reports help you make an informed decision.

Lastly, take the car for a test drive to ensure it runs smoothly and meets your needs. Trust your gut; don’t fear walking away if something feels off. Good luck!

Where to Buy Used Cars

The local dealers

Consider starting with local dealers in your area. These dealerships often have a variety of used cars on their lots, and you can physically inspect and test-drive the vehicles before making a purchase.

Keep an eye out for any special deals or promotions they offer.

Online listings

Another option is to browse online car listings. Websites like Autotrader and provide a convenient platform for individuals and dealers to post their used cars for sale. This can give you a more comprehensive range of vehicles and the ability to compare prices easily.

Carvana and CarMax

CarMax and Carvana are widespread platforms where you can search for a used car, pre-qualify for financing, and even buy the vehicle online.

With their Love Your Car Guarantee®, CarMax allows you to return your car within 30 days (up to 1,500 miles) if unsatisfied.

Private sellers

Finally, remember to check out private sellers. Many people sell their used cars directly to new owners, and you can find these listings on social media, online marketplaces, or even through word of mouth.

When buying from a private owner, inspect the car thoroughly and ask for maintenance records to ensure the vehicle is in good condition.

Certified Pre-Owned Cars

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars offer a great option if you’re searching for a reliable, high-quality used vehicle.

CPO vehicles undergo thorough inspections by dealers, following automaker specifications, to ensure they meet high standards. They come with a manufacturer warranty, giving you peace of mind in your purchase.

The benefits of choosing a Certified Pre-Owned car include lower mileage and a refurbished exterior, making them an excellent choice for buyers seeking a near-new vehicle at an affordable price.

Additionally, these cars have passed rigorous inspections, ensuring their condition and history are well-documented and transparent.

Investigating Features and Extras

First, explore the window sticker or request a build sheet from the dealer. This will show critical details such as color, fuel type, and listed features.

If you’re curious about extra features, contact the dealership or manufacturer using the vehicle identification number (VIN). They can provide accurate information about what options the car was ordered with.

Consider the car’s fuel type, whether gasoline, diesel, or electric. With electric cars becoming more popular, this might be an option worth checking out.

In summary, be proactive in researching the features and extras of your potential used car by examining the window sticker, contacting the dealership, and investigating fuel types.

Understanding Warranties and Services

The manufacturer or dealer can back a used car warranty, and it’s essential to check the Buyers Guide for details. These warranties differ in coverage, so review the terms carefully to determine if they meet your needs.

Remember, service contracts are separate from warranties and often require an extra cost. They typically cover more than just repairs, such as maintaining your vehicle, providing roadside assistance, etc. Choose the services that suit your requirements and budget.

Trading and Selling Used Cars

When you want to trade or sell your used car, knowing the process and finding the right platform for your needs is essential.

Many online platforms offer quick and hassle-free solutions for trading and selling used vehicles.

Car details

Start by sharing your car details to receive a genuine offer in just a few minutes. No haggling or extra hassles! You can either trade in your old vehicle for a new one or sell it outright.

Once you’ve accepted an offer, the buyer will conduct a quick on-site review of your car and pay you on the spot if everything goes smoothly.

Remember to be honest about your car’s condition and maintain a friendly tone throughout the process.

Financing Used Cars

Knowing your credit score before applying when financing used cars will help you secure better loan terms. See this article for an idea.

To pay less, research different lenders and their offers. Get pre-qualified, which helps you understand what you can spend on a used car without pressure or surprises.

Be sure to compare various auto loan rates to optimize your financing. Remember that used car financing, such as CarMax loans, can offer significant savings if you carefully evaluate your options.

Expert Reviews and Advice

Professionals in the automotive industry offer valuable insights to help you make more informed choices.

Review car reviews and ratings focusing on performance, safety, and reliability. These resources can reveal any common issues or recalls associated with the model you’re interested in.

Lastly, remember to stay within your budget and consider fuel economy and maintenance costs. Following expert advice will increase your chances of finding the perfect used car for your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What factors should I consider when buying a used car?

When buying a used car, consider the car’s age, mileage, maintenance history, and overall condition.

Also, consider the car’s worth and how well it meets your needs. Research the make and model for reliability, performance, and safety features.

How do I find a reliable used car dealer?

To find a reliable used car dealer, ask for recommendations from friends and family, read customer reviews online, and check for dealership accreditation or certifications. Also, pay attention to the dealer’s lot appearance, customer service, and transparency in pricing and financing.

What’s the best way to negotiate the price of a used car?

Before negotiating, know the fair market value of the car you’re interested in purchasing. Be prepared with research on similar models in your area, be confident, and remain polite.

Focus on the total price rather than monthly payments, and be bold and walk away if the dealer isn’t willing to meet your price expectations.

How can I check the history of a used car before purchasing it?

Always ask for the vehicle’s maintenance and repair records. Additionally, obtain a vehicle history report using the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) through services like Carfax or AutoCheck. These reports can reveal important details like previous accidents, odometer discrepancies, and title status.

What are the common hidden issues in used cars?

Hidden issues in used cars can include engine problems, transmission issues, electrical system malfunctions, and rust or body damage.

Be proactive in asking questions about the car’s condition and consider having a pre-purchase inspection performed by a trusted mechanic.

What steps should I take after purchasing a used car?

After purchasing a used car:

  • Handle any necessary paperwork, such as title and registration.
  • Obtain insurance.
  • Familiarize yourself with the car’s owner’s manual.

Schedule routine maintenance and promptly address any identified issues to ensure your used car stays in good condition.


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