10 Things to Remember When Buying or Selling a Used Car

Buying a used car, even one that is just a couple of years old, can save you thousands over the price of a new model. Selling your car on your own has many advantages for both you the seller and for your the buyer. Whether buying or selling, there are steps you should take in advance to make sure your experience is a rewarding one.

When buying

  1. Determine where or from whom you want to buy a used car

    Do you want to work with a dealership or private owner? Often this decision can come down to how much you are able to spend on a car. But there are other things to consider if both options are viable, including how you plan to finance your purchase and whether or not you want to buy a very specific model or type.

  2. Research the value of the type of used car you want to buy

    Knowing the value of a used car will be to your advantage when it comes time to negotiate its price. There are several resources online that can help you confirm the value of a used car, including Edmunds.com and the online version of the Kelly Blue Book Keep in mind the sale price of a used car will vary depending on its condition, popularity, and type of warranty offered.

  3. Find out how much it will cost to insure your used car

    Determining even the approximate cost of insuring your new used vehicle will help you budget realistically for the expense, and help in your negotiations with the seller. Free online auto insurance quotes are available from a range of online sources, including the ubiquitous GEICO, and, of course, our own resource page.

  4. Take the car to a mechanic for inspection

    If the dealer or owner refuses to let you take the car to a mechanic, do not buy the vehicle! If you're buying the car from the owner, schedule a time where you can go to a mechanic together. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 for an inspection.

  5. Run a vehicle history report on the car you plan to buy

    In addition to checking out the current condition of the car, you will want to know as much as possible about its history. Each car has a unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that can be used for this purpose.

When selling

  1. Consider your options for financing

    Cash down isn't always possible when purchasing a car. And you may not want to lease, although that is another option. Check with your bank about financing an auto purchase, and then compare their offer with the dealership's. And make sure you run a credit report yourself before the dealer does. You don't want any surprises.

  2. Know the market for your car

    Buyers will (or should) be aware of the market value for your car, so you should be too. Compare your car to similar models, taking note of condition, mileage, and geographic location.

  3. Make sure your car is clean, looks good, and is running well

    Put yourself in the shoes of the potential buyer. Do they really want to look or get inside a car littered with napkins from McDonald's and mud from when you last drove your dog to its favorite park? After a thorough cleaning, have your mechanic check out the car and issue a report about its condition. The data will prove helpful to both you and your potential buyer to negotiate a fair price. Additionally, consider ordering a CarFax report to show that the car's title and odometer reading accurate.

  4. Advertise your car

    Craigslist, YouTube, or the traditional "For Sale" sign in the car window are all options for advertising your car. If composing copy for an ad, remember "OBO" means "or best offer," "asking price" means you are open to negotiating, and "firm" means you want to get the price you are naming.

  5. Make sure you're ready to finalize the sale

    Check with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to determine the rules that govern the sale of motor vehicles in your state. You will need to sign over the title of your car to the new owner. Payment for your car should be made in cash or with a cashier's check. You might consider meeting the buyer for this final step at your bank.

Leave a comment