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How to Buy a Used Car from a Dealer

Typically speaking, the best way to purchase a used vehicle is to visit a reputable used car dealership. The alternative is to buy directly from a private seller, perhaps using a site like Craigslist to facilitate the transaction. The problem here is simply that it can be hard to know whether private sellers are really being straight with you. When you buy from a dealership—especially in California—there are consumer protections in place to make sure you’re not dealt with dishonestly.

Even so, as you approach your transaction with a used car dealer, it’s important to do so thoughtfully and carefully. What follows are a few basic guidelines on how to buy a used car from a dealer.

Tips on Buying from a Used Car dealer

Do your homework before you go to the dealership. Know basically what kind of car you’re hoping to buy, and also what the approximate value should be. Kelley Blue Book is a great resource here. To ensure a fair negotiation with the dealer, know the basic KBB price range for the vehicle in question.

Always ask for a vehicle history. Using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), you can run a history check on CarFax and receive a play-by-play breakdown of any accidents or major repairs the vehicle has had in the past. If you ask the dealer for this report, he or she should be happy to provide it. This helps you know a little bit more about the car you’re hoping to buy.

Pay attention to the price sticker. Some pre-owned vehicles may still have factory warranties in place. The price sticker should provide this information. Meanwhile, some cars may be listed “as is,” which usually tells you that they are older or not in the best condition.

Take the vehicle for a test drive. This is a step you should always take when purchasing a vehicle. Be alert to anything “funny” in how it drives or in how it sounds, and if anything about the car makes you uncomfortable, be willing to walk away.

Inspect the vehicle. Even if you’re not a trained mechanic, you can at least tell if there is oil in the engine, air in the tires, and a general sense of upkeep in the exterior and interior of the vehicle.

Be willing to negotiate… but only a little. You’re not going to get more than 15 percent off the sticker price, and frankly shouldn’t try—but there may be a little wiggle room, and you should certainly speak up if you think the dealer has overvalued the vehicle.


Used Car Dealerships in Orange County

Note, finally, that there are plenty of great used car dealerships throughout Southern California, especially in Orange County. It’s a hot market, which means your options are plentiful. Take your time to do some research and find the used vehicle that’s best for you. Visit getmyauto.com for more insight into the used car buying process.