Shop for a Used Car or Vehicle

Paying for a used car or vehicle can be difficult. However, buying one doesn't have to be so hard. The following explains how to shop for a used car or vehicle.


  1. Identify what type of vehicle you are looking for.
    • Examples include SUVs, pickup trucks, and cars.
  2. Search for vehicles.
    • Contact people in your network to find out if any of them have recommendations regarding sellers.
    • Search the Internet for used vehicles that interest you. Common sites to use included eBay and
    • Visit the websites of and/or call local used vehicle dealers to get listings of their used inventories.
  3. Research any vehicles that interest you.
  4. Identify vehicles that you would like to see in person.
  5. Visit any local dealerships or individuals that have vehicles that you are interested in.
  6. Ask questions about the vehicle.
    • Ask why it is being sold.
    • Ask how many previous owners there have been.
    • Ask if there are any problems with the vehicle.
  7. Inspect the vehicle.
    • Check the ground under the vehicle for spots. These could be a sign of a fluid leak.
    • Check for cosmetic damage, such as dents, scratches, or cracked glass.
    • Make sure the headlights and brake lights work.
    • Make sure each turn signal works.
    • Test the air conditioner, heat, radio and any other systems that you have access to as a driver.
    • Make sure the seats adjust properly.
    • Lift the hood. Pull the dipstick out from the engine and check the oil level. The dipstick should be marked with low and high points, which indicate an acceptable amount of oil. Clean oil should have a golden color. Brown oil is not clean and should be considered a sign of poor engine maintenance.
    • Pull the dipstick from the transmission if it is not sealed. Repeat the same steps as with the oil, except that the fluid should be red.
  8. Test drive the vehicle.
    • Make sure the brakes work well.
    • Be sure that the vehicle handles to your liking.
  9. Obtain a vehicle history report.
    • Many sellers now offer these at no charge.
    • Carfax is a service that will provide the history of a vehicle, including reported accidents and a service history.
    • If the vehicle has been in a serious accident or was once in a flood zone, avoid purchasing it.
  10. Negotiate the price.
    • Kelly Blue Book offers pricing guides for most vehicles. Visit their site at and enter the vehicle's information for specific pricing.
    • If you have reached your highest price, state that it is your final offer.
    • Be willing to walk away if you do not believe the final price is fair.
  11. Have an independent auto mechanic inspect the vehicle.
    • The mechanic should not be affiliated with the individual or dealership you are purchasing from.
  12. Purchase the vehicle.
    • Be wary of any last minute add-ons if you are purchasing it from a dealership. Many of them are unnecessary. Research any add-ons thoroughly before you agree to purchase them.


  • If you want to shop online and it is not realistic to see the vehicle in person, have an independent auto mechanic inspect it for you that is located near the vehicle. Companies such as will perform an inspection remotely for you.

Related Articles