Buying Gently Worn Wheels: A Used Car Shopper’s Mini-Guide for Getting the Best Deal Possible

nissan-885309_640You need a new set of wheels, but you don’t want to get scammed by the dealer or someone off the Internet. It happens so often that you know some of the warning signs to look for, but you’re still confused about some of the signs and you still haven’t figured out how, exactly, to get a good deal.

Here’s what expert used car buyers know that you don’t.

Never Buy New

This should be obvious, but unless you don’t care about money, never buy your vehicle new. We don’t live in a society where new is cheap. Most new vehicles can’t be had for less than $30,000, and even “cheap” automobiles cost more than $20,000. And, even newer vehicles won’t fall apart in 5 to 10 years which means you can buy something from the mid 2000s, and even early to mid 1990s and still have a decent-running vehicle.

The depreciation on a new vehicle is astounding. Most of them depreciate double digits as soon as you drive it off the lot. Cars are so well built today that most of them will go 200,000 miles without breaking a sweat. As long as you do regular maintenance on them, you should be fine.

Where To Find Used Vehicles

The Internet is a great place to “window shop” for used vehicles. There are many different websites, like, craigslist, autotrader, and a few others where you can get a good idea what your ideal vehicle should cost. Then, you can either buy through the Internet or go to a local dealer. Make sure you cross check everything with a site like based on a “good” condition for the vehicle.

Paying the Blue Book value is usually not something that a dealer will agree to, and some private buyers will scoff at certain valuations, but stick to your guns. Remember, if you’re not emotionally attached to a vehicle, they have no power over you.

A good rule of thumb is you should ask for a 10% discount over the Blue Book value.The seller may not give it to you, but it’s a good way to start the negotiation process.

How To Play Hardball Back

If the seller is playing hardball, play harder. There are always more cars out there, and manufacturers make more than one of a particular make and model vehicle. You just need to be patient to find the right deal. Again, if you’re set on getting a particular vehicle, you’ve already committed to overpaying. Stay somewhat detached, emotionally, from the buying process.

Your goal is to buy a good vehicle at a price you can afford.

How do you know you’re getting a good deal? You know when you’re buying a vehicle during an economic depression. But other than that, it’s usually when the seller has to sell because of a business relocation, divorce, or some kind of financial emergency. In fact, a lot of sellers will use this tactic in an ad to make themselves seem less suspicious.

Of course, you don’t necessarily want to trust someone who says they’re selling for financial reasons. Make them prove it by offering them an amount less than what they’re asking for.

If they balk at the price, then they’re not serious. Now, don’t get too carried away with this. 10% is a decent discount. So, if you go lower than that, almost anyone will balk at the offer. But, let’s say you offer 5% below book value. If the person doesn’t take the deal, they’re not serious about selling.

Get The Vehicle Checked Out

Never buy a vehicle without having it checked out first. It’s just not worth it. First, run a vehicle history report. This will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the history of the vehicle.

But, you should also take it to a mechanic you trust and have it looked over. It’s worth the $100 to have a mechanic tell you that the brakes need to be changed or that there’s a mechanical fault with it.

Many people, looking to save a buck, will skip this step and pay for it later with huge repair bills. Some of the problems sellers might be trying to hide include engine problems, or a problem with the transmission, heater, air conditioning, or a cosmetic problem.

This is more common with desperate sellers than with sellers who are unmotivated to sell. So, while you can get a discount from someone motivated to sell, you might also get scammed. At the end of the day, if it feels wrong, walk away.

Caitlin Gill is a single Mom who has experience in buying and selling vehicles. Often she hears of people making basic mistakes, especially when it comes to price, and wants to offer up her tips to an online audience.

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