Used Car Buying Tips and Tricks

Buying Used Cars


Everyone should learn a few used car buying tips before negotiating with car salesmen. Luckily for us, there is more information available than ever for the average car buyer and the car dealerships no longer hold all the cards. Following are some used car buying tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over the years. Most of these tips work for new cars as well.

The first thing you should do when considering buying a car is research. No one likes it, but its the best way to save thousands of dollars and usually only takes a few hours. Spread the research over a few days or a couple of weekends to make it seem less laborious. But what are you supposed to be researching?

There are several sites you could go to. I happen to like Edmunds.com. Hopefully you have an idea of the make and model of what you’d like to research. Or maybe you’ve narrowed it down to two or three. The number of options you have will increase the amount of research to do, so be critical in your selection.

Search out the best prices for each car in your shopping area and compare that to the value that Edmunds gives each vehicle. Knowing what a car is worth is half the battle.

Before you ever get to a dealership you will want to have your financing lined up. Go to your bank or credit union and get pre-approved for a loan. This gives you more leverage at the car dealership. You can walk in and tell them you are ready to buy ‘right now’ if they make the right offer. But don’t reveal this tidbit to them just yet… its better to wait until later when you negotiate with them.

The last thing to do before going to the car dealership is to take your current car to your local CarMax (if you have one locally) to see what they’ll buy your car for. They’ll give you a one-week offer to purchase your car for X dollars. This information will help you when you are negotiating with your upcoming dealership trip.

Now, go to the dealership and tell them which car you are interested in buying. If you will be trading in your current vehicle, do not tell them. If you will be making payments on the car, do not tell them. If you will be financing the car with them, do not tell them. Are you picking up on a trend yet?

The more information you give to the car salesman (salesperson, I suppose I should say), the more they’ll use against you. You want to discuss only which car you want and what their best price is. Continually say things like “Surely you can do better than that”, or “So, that’s your best offer?”

Once you’re sure they’ve given their best offer, then discuss the trade-in value of your car. It must be kept a totally separate issue, or they will try to tangle everything together and confuse you. Since you’ve done your homework, you know exactly what you can sell your car for elsewhere. Use the same negotiation tactics from above when haggling over your car.

Be sure to write everything down, or have them print out their offer for you. You want everything in writing because now you are going to their competitor to perform the process all over again. Do exactly the same thing at another dealership. When you have completed these tasks and have their best offer in writing, compare the two offers.

If the second dealership has the best offer, call up the first place and tell them about it. They’ll either counter or give up. If they counter, just go back and forth until someone wins.

If the second dealership does not have the best offer, show them the first offer and see if they’ll compete. Again, if they give up, you go back to the first dealership.

If neither of the dealerships makes you a decent offer on your used car, just run over to CarMax and you can have it sold in about an hour.

Using these used car buying tips and tricks, you can get the best price for your used car as well as for your trade-in.