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GuideUsed Cars

Best Places to Buy a Used Car

Car salesmen in generally viewed in a bad light, but the worst stereotypes are those of a used car salesmen - and for good reason.

It's difficult to comparison shop used cars because each one is different. Some have a lot of miles while others have been barely driven. Some are in great shape, while others neglected.

This takes away one of the major advantages enjoyed by new car shoppers - the ability to comparison shop a commodity which is consistent from dealer to dealer.

There's lots of tricks to watch out for when buying used, especially if you have bad credit or can only afford a low-price vehicle. So be wary of where you buy a used car from.

Places to Avoid

Buying a used car can save you a lot of money, but there's one big drawback. You never really know how reliable it's going to be and most don't come with a warranty.

It's important to buy from a source that allows you to fully inspect the vehicle by a professional mechanic before purchase.

This is one major reason why I don't recommend buying a used vehicle from an auction. While some do allow mobile inspections to take place, it's not as thorough as taking it to a shop where the vehicle can be hooked up to specialized equipment.

Another place to avoid are "Buy Here, Pay Here" car lots. They generally offer older, cheaper vehicles that are financed directly at extremely high interest rates.

The type of buyers they target are ones with bad credit that can't get a loan any other way. The cars they sell are generally ones that nobody else is interested in buying.

Places to be Careful

Sometimes you can get a good deal at an independent used car lot, but you need to really take the time to inspect the vehicle before buying.

Independent car lots are those you see in random spots, generally with a lot of flags, bells and whistles attached to the cars. They are not associated with any car manufacturer or brand.

The used cars found at these lots are usually ones that franchised dealers passed on for one reason or another.

New car dealers, on the other hand, get the benefit of buying trade-ins whenever someone purchases a vehicle. They also get first dibs on cars coming off of factory leases. The ones they don't like are sold wholesale to independent dealers or get sent to wholesale auction.

Sometimes people do sell their cars directly to used car lots, so you can find some diamonds in the rough, but like I pointed out earlier, you need to thoroughly inspect the vehicles before buying.

Another source that offers used cars for sale are rental agencies that need to replace their current fleets. Most have their own web sites where you can search for vehicles. Examples include Hertz Car Sales, Budget Car Sales, Avis Car Sales.

I should remind you, these cars have been driven by dozens of different people, some of which haven't been very careful. Most are usually maintained pretty well, but you need to be able to have the vehicle fully inspected by a professional before buying.

Many rental agencies will claim they're selling their vehicles for "wholesale" prices, but you're no more likely to get a good deal than any other source, so take those claims with a grain of salt.

Good Places to Buy

Finally, we get to the best places to buy a used car.

Franchised new car dealers are a great place to buy a good quality used car, but you'll usually end up paying more for it.

Some offer "certified used cars" which come with an extended warranty and thorough inspection, but even the one that aren't certified are usually inspected and any worn parts replaced prior to sale.

Private parties are also a great source to purchase from, especially if the car only had one owner prior to sale. Just make sure you get the car inspected by a mechanic before buying and watch out for curbstoning - a practice where dealers pretend to be private sellers.

Finally, there's the mega used car dealers such as CarMax which offer good quality used cars for sale at no-haggle prices. These prices are usually not very competitive, but you can sometimes find a great deal - and in some cases, they're willing to negotiate a few hundred dollars off the price.

Each week, I'll keep you up-to-date on the latest car deals and news that might affect your purchase. This includes...

  • Best Rebates, Incentives, and Lease Deals
  • Latest Car Buying Scams and Tricks
  • The Best & Worst Time to Buy a Car
  • Which Cars You Should Avoid

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About The Author

Gregg Fidan Gregg Fidan is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.
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