Used cars can save you thousands of dollars on cars just as spectacular as new cars and with relatively low mileage.   Used cars can be some of the most fuel efficient vehicles as well.  But used cars can also be complete junk and cost you more than a pretty penny.

How do you avoid regretting your used car purchase? How do you remain in control of the steering wheel—and not get taken along for a ride? How do you find the best deal and get a quality car that will best serve your individual needs?

Here are the eight steps that should guide your search for a used car:

Determine your budget. One of the reasons you’re looking to buy a used car is because money definitely is an object. Go over your monthly expenditures and income and determine the maximum amount of money you could spend on a car. If you think you’ll have to take out a loan or use a charge card, make sure you can afford the monthly payments and that the interest rate isn’t too high. If you have the money saved up already, your buying options will be broader since you can pay cash, which is typically preferred when you buy used cars for sale by owner.

Determine your vehicle needs. Why are you buying a car? What are you going to be using the car for? Is low mileage and high fuel efficiency important to you? What kind of features are you looking for? (Automatic transmission, navigation system, air conditioning, power windows, etc.) Do you prefer buying cars from used car dealerships, which can often include warranties? Do you want a used car with a relatively clean vehicle history? (One owner, no accidents, few repairs, etc.)

Go “window” shopping. Go online, get a Kelley Blue Book, or test drive cars at dealerships to research different models, makes, and years of cars to find the vehicle type you might be looking for. Once you know which used car you’d prefer, like a used Honda Civic, a used Honda Accord, a used BMW, or a used sedan…

Search through used car listings online. Used car search engines like make searching through used car listings on Craigslist, eBay, car classifieds, and on local used car dealership lots a breeze. Compare prices and features like warranties, vehicle histories, condition, and mileage easily.

Contact the sellers of several vehicles that pique your interest. Don’t pick just one yet. You may get excited about a car, but you could find problems with the car once you see it firsthand. Ask the private seller or the used car dealer to tell you more about the car and schedule an appointment to examine and test drive the car.  For some tips on the questions to ask the seller when you contact them, see

Also, there’s a difference in price and peace of mind depending on whether you purchase a car from a new car dealer, a used car dealer or a private party.  Read the pros and cons at

Get the vehicle’s VIN number and/or vehicle history report. The seller of the vehicle should be able to provide you with the vehicle’s VIN number from the car title, the owner’s insurance, or from under the windshield. Request an official vehicle history report online. If you’re buying from a used car dealership, you may be able to request this report from the used car dealer.   But you should still pull the report from a site like to verify the history.  Learn about any accidents or major repairs and factor these into your purchasing decision.

Conduct a thorough examination of the vehicle. Do minor maintenance checks of the vehicle yourself the first time you see it; you should be able to catch any glaring problems, like rust, mismatched paint, and cracked or leaking parts under the hood. If the vehicle passes your first examination, take it for a test drive and bring it to a mechanic whom you trust for a more thorough examination.  For tips on the inspections you could do yourself, see the used car inspection checklist at

Negotiate—and don’t let your emotion show. Just like with new cars, the sticker price is the asking price. The seller is likely willing to part with the car for less, but be sure to tread a fine line. If you think the price is fair, start with a bid of $500-1000 less than the asking price. Don’t let the seller know you’re really excited about the car and be sure to let him or her know that you’re still strongly considering other vehicles. The seller may take your price—or at least counter-offer a lower price than the asking price—because he or she’s anxious to get the car sold!  For tips on negotiating with a dealer or a private party, see

If you have any questions, ask the community at

For more information on used cars, visit which provides tips, advice, and commentary on searching and buying used cars.  The blog is written by the team at, a search engine for used cars for sale, created by people who think buying used cars are better than buying new and who are passionate about building better tools and providing helpful insights and information for users to more easily and smartly search for and buy used cars. 

Search used cars for sale and find the best deals near you at
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