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Where’s the Best Place to Buy a Used Car in Southern California?

Where to buy a car in California

You may have decided on purchasing your next vehicle pre-owned, but you’ve still got some big choices left to make. Will you buy from a dealership, or a private party? And if you buy from a dealership, which one should you buy from? A certified used car lot, or a place like CarMax? Options abound, and smart consumers will want to weigh all the pros and cons before making their final decision.

We’ll say from the outset that we generally advise against buying from private sellers, including those you can connect with on Craigslist. Sometimes Craigslist works great, and there are many honest people there, but it is simply hard to verify that a seller is honest and reputable, and there are no real consumer protections in place. Buying from an actual dealership is a much safer move.

Buying a Used Car in California from a Dealer

That still doesn’t clear up the matter of which dealership is preferable. Allow us to run through some of the big options that Southern California shoppers have available to them.

CarMax. You probably know CarMax, as there are more than 100 individual CarMax locations found all across the country. It has arisen, basically, as an alternative to more traditional pre-owned dealerships. CarMax puts its cars through rigorous testing to ensure total quality. Buying a car from CarMax definitely has its advantages: You have a decent assurance that you’re getting a solid and reliable car, and the prices are all fixed, so there is no hassle and no negotiation. The downside, of course, is that buyers looking for a great deal won’t find as much flexibility here as with a more traditional lot.

Certified Pre-Owned Dealerships. Another option is to buy from a certified pre-owned (CPO) dealership. Here you will typically find used vehicles sold by dealerships of the same brand—e.g., certified pre-owned Toyotas for sale at the local Toyota lot. These cars, too, are tested and vetted pretty thoroughly (though not always as much so as at CarMax), and can sometimes come with great manufacturer warranties and guaranties.

Independent Dealerships. Still another option is to buy from an independent dealership—that is, one not affiliated with any particular auto manufacturer. Here you’re taking more of a gamble, simply in terms of the size, variety, and quality of the selection. Consulting online review sites is a good way to make an informed decision about independent dealerships.

Dealer Non-Certified at a Dealership. Finally, you can head to that Toyota lot (or the dealership of your choice) and find cars that are not certified, but may still be good and affordable cars. Some may be made by different manufacturers, and some may simply be too old to qualify for CPO status.

Best Used Car Website in California

There are pros and cons to each of these, which is why we also recommend doing plenty of homework in advance of your purchase. One place to do that is at the Get My Auto website. Check out the blogs and resources available there!