How to Buy a Used Car Without Frying Your Brain
The first step was finding out how much my car was worth as a trade-in. Although you can get a better price if you don't mind the hassle of selling your car on Ebay or Craigslist, I wanted to trade mine in, so I went to the Kelley Blue Book and the NADA Used Car Pricing websites. In addition to offering a detailed account of the worth of your car for trade-in, you can also find wholesale and private-party prices. Both also have additional information, such as the 10 Coolest Cars under $18,000 or check a VIN for free.
Having confirmed my suspicion that the Volvo had depreciated dramatically, I set about looking for a replacement. Edmund's suggests using the Affordability Calculator to see what you can afford, and then narrowing your choices to 3 vehicles in the same category.
I wanted a small SUV, so I began researching the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V, and the Subaru Forester. For decades, Consumer Reports has devoted their April issue to car buying, including the invaluable reliability history, Best and Worst Used Cars and safety ratings. The April issue is available at all of the DPL branches and can also be accessed online with a DPL card.
U.S. News and World Report's Used Cars & Trucks page is available to everyone and has reviews, photos and buying advice, along with tips on avoiding scams, such as "lemon laundering." The comprehensive Edmund's Automobile Buyer's Guide for used cars rates reliability, safety, MPG and has customer reviews.
Next, test drive a few of the models that you're interested in to narrow your choice to one. To find out what's available, check out Cars.com, AutoTrader.com, Ebay Motors or dealer websites. If you're not sure what to look for during a test drive, try U.S. News and World Report's How to Test Drive a Used Car, Bankrate.com's 18-Tip Checklist, or DMV.org's Basics of Test Driving a Used Vehicle. And don't forget this basic advice from Jamie Seger of Centennial Leasing and Sales, "If the vehicle makes noise while driving, or pulls to one side or if there are any warning lights on the dash, those all could be red flags to a customer."
Now comes the fun part - negotiating a deal. A post in The Art of Manliness offers lots of advice, as does ABC's Haggling 101: How to Set the Opening Offer for a Used Car.