Your Essential Used Car Buying Guide

Decide your budget

Your car loan payment should not exceed 20% of take-home pay. Spend even less if you’re on a budget. Used cars are likely to need extra maintenance, so account for that too.

Build a shortlist

Cars from Honda and Toyota are sought after in the used car market. But they can cost a lot. Consider brands like Ford or Kia if you’re looking to save money.

Check prices

Check used car sections of new car dealerships, independent used car dealers, websites that list used cars, compare all the prices for your shortlist. Certified pre-owned vehicles will cost the most, while those from private parties are usually the cheapest.

Check your area

An easy way to build a target list to check for used cars in your area. Use the filters available on the site you’re checking to find vehicles that are located close to you.

Check vehicle history

Always get the car’s VIN and vehicle history report. The life the car has lived will determine how easy or difficult it will make your life. See if it has suffered any accident damage, whether it has a salvage title, and if it was serviced regularly.

Contact the seller

Once you have a potential car shortlisted, call the seller. Verify all the details about the vehicle. You may learn something that was never mentioned anywhere else.

Test-drive time

Set a test-drive during day time. Prepare a checklist and follow every point patiently during the test drive. Ask and inspect the service records too.

Get it inspected

Get a mechanic to inspect the car thoroughly. It could reveal potential issues that you may not have noticed. Only go ahead once you get the green light from your mechanic.


Now that you have all the positives and negatives of the car in front of you, you can make a solid argument and negotiate the price down to the point that you’re comfortable with.

Do the paperwork

Once you decide on a price that works for everyone, check all the paperwork carefully. Ensure there are no past-due fees on the car, and once you’re satisfied, complete the purchase and drive your car home.