The Newbie’s Guide To Buying a Used Car

tips for buying a used car

By Derrick Johnson

When you are looking at buying a used car, the first and most important step is knowing where you should go.

Should you buy directly from people who post ads in the local newspaper or on websites like Craigslist?

Or is it better if you to buy a used car from a dealership?

Both options have their own share of merits and it can be pretty hard to decide on which one of them to go with.

The reality is that there is no one best answer, it really depends on your situation. So, to help you make up your mind on where to go to and what to watch out for when buying a used car, here’s a list of the pros and cons of buying from a direct seller versus from a used car dealership.

Direct Seller


• The price is definitely lower since they are not really looking for a profit; most direct sellers are usually just looking to get rid of their old car so you have a bit of room for haggling.

• The negotiations are less intimidating. You are not talking to a trained salesman; the one selling the car is just like you, a normal regular Joe.


• The negotiations can become more heated if you’re dealing with a direct sellers who’s too attached to their car so they do not see its actual value. Haggling to get the price down will be a bit tricky.

• You will not get a warranty. With direct sellers all sales are final and if you find a problem with the car a few days after you bought it, there’s no way you can return it to the seller for a refund. You need to check the car inside and out before finalizing your purchase. Make sure it’s certified, and if it’s not then make sure the price you’re getting makes it worth taking the risk of having to get repairs done.

Used Car Dealerships


• You have a selection of cars to choose from. Even the smaller used car dealerships have at least 10 or 20 cars in their lot so you can compare different cars and find the one that suits you perfectly.

• They more than likely offer financing options. So unlike direct sellers who will only accept 100% upfront cash payments, you can work out a monthly payment plan.

They should have certified the car and so you shouldn’t have to do any significant repair work to do. ***Still always be careful. Bring a friend with you who knows cars to help you spot any potential issues. Dealers have been known to cover up defects or just patch them up just enough so the car may run for a month or two  then you suddenly find yourself breaking down on the side of the road. ***


• You are dealing with professional salespeople and they know how to get inside your head and make you buy a car that you do not even want. Be careful when dealing with car salesmen, they have a lot of tricks up their sleeves and they are not afraid to use them.

• The cars tend to be quite expensive. Car dealerships are a business after all, they need to have a high profit margin. But these prices are not final though, you can still negotiate to get it down quite a bit.

• If you take them up on their financing options then be aware that you will be paying much more for your car in the long run because of all the added interest may.

Now that you have an idea of what to expect when buying a used car from a direct seller and from dealerships, and you have weighed out the pros and cons of each, you can now make a decision as to which route to choose.