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Tips For Buying a Used Car

Are you in the market for a car? There are many advantages to buying a used vehicle, especially when it comes to the price.  Although not guaranteed, other advantages include less depreciation, and potentially lower insurance rates. Here’s are some tips on how to buy a used car and what to look for, whether it’s from a dealer, a private party, or an online dealer.

Consider These Key Factors


Narrow your field down to models that stand out for reliability. But remember, every pre-owned car has its own history of us. So if you can, it’s always a good idea to have any used vehicle you’re considering inspected by a trusted mechanic before buying it.


Due to the current market, cars that are only a year or two old will not have depreciated much and may even cost the same as they did when they were new. For that reason, you’re likely to find better values in cars that are 3 to 5 years old, or maybe older.

Purchasing A Vehicle

financing purchasing a car

Have A Realistic Budget 

The best way to save money when it comes to a large purchase is to be honest with how much you can afford.

NerdWallet recommends that you:

  • Plan to put about 10% down, which helps decrease the amount you’ll need to finance.
  • Aim to finance the car for no more than three years.
  • Budget so that, ideally, your monthly auto expenses (car payment, gas and insurance) won't be more than 20% of your monthly take-home pay.

Explore Financing Options 

Choosing the right financing option for your vehicle is like finding your perfect car. Shop around to ensure you get the best auto loan rates and terms available. Check out our current rates before accepting a loan.

Do Your Research

Knowing what features you want in your vehicle will help narrow down your search. Make sure you're choosing models known for their dependability. You’ll also want to consider the total cost of ownership. Some cars may be cheaper upfront, but the costs can add up in the long run because of insurance, maintenance, repairs and depreciation. After thorough research, narrow down your choices to your top three car models.

man test drives car

Test Drive the Car

Select a route that has a little bit of everything: hills, rough pavement, curves and even a stretch of highway. Drive the car with the radio off, you can test that later.

What to check when buying a used car

  • Visibility: Are there any blind spots?
  • Acceleration and cornering: Does the car have enough power? How does the steering feel?
  • Brakes: Are they responsive and predictable?
  • Ergonomics: Can you easily reach all the gauges and controls?
  • Mechanical condition: Listen for any unusual noises or vibrations that could indicate worn suspension parts or tires.
  • Leg room and cargo capacity: Climb in the backseat and see how much space the car offers. 
  • Sound system: Check sound quality and display and see if your phone can connect via Bluetooth.


Base your opening offer off the average price you’ve seen your car listed at. Be prepared to have some back and forth during negotiations. Don’t get discouraged, it’s all part of the process. But always be ready to walk. If you aren’t making progress toward a deal, or you don’t like the way you’re being treated, just walk out.

Man in car holding keys

Make It Official

Ensure the registration and title are officially transferred to you. Congratulations on purchasing your new car!

Preparation is key to saving the most money when purchasing a vehicle. Used cars can still be pricey, but you can avoid the high prices, limited supply, and depreciation hit of new vehicles. Purchasing a car is a big decision but buying a used car doesn’t have to be so difficult. Try out our tips to make the process easier when you decide it’s the right time for you to purchase a used car.


Sources and enhancements by Credit Union of Denver



2 Loan qualification and (APR) Annual Percentage Rate based on individual credit worthiness. Not all borrowers will qualify for the best rate and terms may vary on amount financed. Rates are subject to change.

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