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How to Buy a Used Car

Shopping for a used car can be a little stressful. How do you know you’re truly getting a good deal on a car that is going to be reliable? Lucky for you, there are several tools out there for used car shoppers to use to get the most for their money. At Peak Kia North, we’ve compiled 10 steps to follow when buying a used car.

#1: Set a Budget

The first step to buying a used car is to set your budget. When you are paying for a car with cash, remember to not completely drain your savings on the price of the car. You should leave some money in the bank to pay for registration, insurance, and repairs and maintenance that need to be done.

If you are planning on taking out a loan for a used car, getting pre-approved can help you determine exactly what your budget should be. Submit an application for pre-approval here and check our payment calculator to estimate what you can afford.

#2: Find the Right Used Car for You

Everyone has a dream car, but that dream car is not always practical. Think about how you plan to use this car. Do you need room for a growing family? Are you going to pull a trailer? Do you need a vehicle to be fuel efficient? Is safety your main priority? Narrow your used car search by making a list of must-have features. You can then search for car models that match your criteria on Car Finder or This will help you find the right models of car for you!

#3: Check Ownership Costs & Reliability

While some car models may be inexpensive to purchase, they may be expensive to maintain over the long-term. You can use Kelly Blue Book’s Cost to Own feature or Consumer Reports’ Cost of Vehicle Ownership to estimate and compare the lifetime cost of the different vehicle models. These tools can also show you how reliable these vehicles are to further help you narrow your search.

#4: Let the Search Begin

Once you have narrowed your search further, it’s time to start hunting for used cars near you that meet your criteria. Some good places to look are Craigslist, AutoTrader, and Facebook Marketplace. If you are looking for a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle, your best option will be to look through used inventory at dealerships.

#5: Price the Cars for Future Comparison

Now that you’ve checked out some used inventory and have a few cars on your radar, you will want to price the cars. Kelly Blue Book provides a tool where you can enter the used car’s year, make. Model, mileage and additional options to give you what a fair price for the vehicle would be. You should be able to find this information on the car’s listing. This estimation will help you negotiate the price of the vehicle in the future.

#6: Get a Vehicle History Report

If you have honed in on a vehicle or two that you are strongly considering, it is wise to take a look at their vehicle history report. This is a quick and easy way to know if you should seriously consider a car. Enter the vehicle’s VIN into Carfax or AutoCheck. This report should detail if the title is clean or salvaged, whether it has been involved in any accidents, how many previous owners there have been, and will verify the miles on the vehicle. If the vehicle checks out, you can move on to step 7.

#7: Contact the Seller

Now that you’re comfortable with your selection of a few vehicles, contact the seller. Whether it’s a private sale or you are contacting a dealership, this is a good opportunity to ask any questions you might have. Some basic questions you can ask are:

  • Has the car been looked at by a mechanic? If not, can I have it inspected?
  • Are service records available?
  • Is there any important information I should know that was not included in the ad?

#8: Take the Car for a Test Drive

The next step is to take the car out for a test drive to determine if it’s worth buying. Before you hit the road, be sure to inspect the vehicle for anything glaring that could potentially bring the value down. If everything looks good, it is time to get in the driver’s seat!

Be sure to pick a test drive route that has everything from curved roads, highway speeds, and rough pavement if you can. Drive with the radio off to hear for any strange sounds or vibrations coming from the vehicle. Pay attention to the ergonomics of the car and whether there are any blind spots. Additionally, check the responsiveness of the brakes and acceleration.

Once you’ve completed the test drive, you can then check out the stereo, cargo space, and other features. If everything checks out, you can certainly ask for the vehicle to be thoroughly inspected by a mechanic. If the car is Certified Pre-Owned, this has already been done.

#9: Negotiate a Fair Price

This is the part that most people avoid: negotiation. Negotiating a fair price is not a bad thing. You’ve done your research, you know what a fair price is, and you’ve seen and tested the car. The key to a successful negotiation is being armed with facts, which you have from your pricing research and vehicle history report. Point out any concerns you might have while also making clear that you know the book value of the car. If anything needs to be replaced, like tires, ask for a price below the book value that would help you get the tires replaced. If you are pre-approved, don’t negotiate by monthly payment, negotiate as if you were a cash buyer. If you are at a dealership, remember to ask about any dealership fees before settling on a number. Be prepared to walk if you feel as if you are not getting a fair price from the seller.

#10: Buy the Used Car

Once you and the seller have made an agreement on a fair price for the vehicle, buy it! Be sure to add the vehicle to your insurance policy before you finalize the purchase. If you are purchasing from a private seller, check your state’s requirements for private car sales to ensure you are getting the proper documentation. If you are purchasing your used car from a dealership, they will likely extend warranty offers and they may be worth consideration. Take your time to review any contract, and only sign if you’re comfortable with the terms. Once you’ve signed, that’s it! You’ve made your used car purchase and are all set!

We hope these steps for buying a used car find you well. The staff at Peak Kia North is committed to providing a hassle-free car buying experience. You can even schedule a 24-Hour test drive to get the best test driving experience! Check out our used inventory today!