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7 Used Car Buying Tips

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A vehicle window with a "For Sale" sign in the window.

The greatest advantage of buying a used car is that the original owner will have absorbed the costly depreciation that occurs in the first years of ownership. But purchasing a used car comes with a bit of prep work to make sure you’re getting the right car for you at the right price. Here are some things to consider when you’re ready to buy a used car. These tips will help you see the big picture, and perhaps point out some forgotten items.

  1. Check out the model you're interested in buying. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will tell you if a car model has ever been recalled and give you information about that recall. Also determine its reliability by checking for the frequency-of-repair records.
  2. Find out the value of the car you want to buy, including options. Find out the retail and wholesale price of the car or truck you're interested in buying. This will improve your negotiating position.
  3. Look for the "Buyer's Guide" sticker on a window of the vehicle. It is required by law and tells you important information regarding the warranty and possible problems with the car.
  4. Test-drive the vehicle you plan to buy and have a mechanic you trust do an independent inspection.
  5. Ask the seller if the car has ever been in an accident. Check for rust, dents, paint discolorations, etc. If you’re seriously considering a car, using CARFAX® Vehicle History Reports are a good idea to learn about the car's history.
  6. Make sure any oral promises made by the dealer are included in the sales contract or your Buyer's Guide sticker.
  7. Keep the original or copy of the Buyer's Guide sticker when you purchase the vehicle in case anything goes wrong and there is a question regarding the dealer's liability.