How to Buy a Used Car You Love

August 03, 2023

If you want to buy a good used car, there are plenty of ways to go about it. Whether you prefer heading to a dealership to check out the current inventory or comb the want ads and websites online, here are some tips to navigate your car-buying journey.


Dealerships have their benefits, including an inventory of cars you can view and test-drive. They may also offer warranties on many of their cars. However, to get the best deal it pays to be prepared.

  • Get an auto loan ahead of time so you don't have to rely on the dealership's financing. If they offer better terms and rates, great. If not, you already have a car loan in place. Always be ready to walk away.
  • Do the math on trade-ins. Dealers may offer to take your old car as a trade-in, which can help reduce the sales price. But make sure it's a good deal. It may be better to sell it on your own.
  • Watch the add-ons. Some dealerships may try to sell you extras like extended warranties, Gap insurance, window etching or tire and fabric protection. Don't get pressured into buying something you don't want or need.
  • Find a dealer you can trust. Ask friends and family members if they have recently purchased a used car from a dealership. They can tell you about their experiences and help you find one you can trust. Read online reviews. Check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints.

Look for dealer certifications from organizations like the National Automobile Dealers Association

Rental Car Resellers

Rental car companies buy cars in volume at discounted prices and adhere to regular maintenance schedules to keep them in good working order. Once they decide to sell them, they offer no-haggle pricing and limited warranties — usually 12 months.

Keep in mind, even though rental car companies service their cars regularly, they may have wear and tear that could be problematic down the road. That's why it's important to have a mechanic you trust inspect them and review the vehicle's history report before you buy.

Private Sellers

While it takes more work, buying from a private seller can help you get a good price on a reliable vehicle. Shop with preapproved financing, research the vehicle's history and get it inspected by a reputable mechanic before you buy.

Private sellers don't offer warranties or other perks that dealers might have. Don't buy a car unseen online and take someone with you when you go.

Car Buying Services

A car-buying service is a company that will help you purchase a new or used car. These services typically have a team of experts who will negotiate with dealerships on your behalf to get you the best price possible. Car-buying services will also handle all of the paperwork associated with buying a car, which can be daunting for some people.

Just like you'd do when researching dealerships, make sure you're using a reputable company. Once you've narrowed down your cars be sure to ask each company about their fees and what services they include. SchoolsFirst FCU offers no-fee car-buying services.

When buying a used car, beware of potential fraud.

We Can Help You Find And Finance Your Next Car

We offer a range of competitive auto loans 1 to fit almost anyone's financial situation, including first-time buyers with no or little credit history. Our loans offer auto convenience checks so you can shop like a cash buyer.


1. All loans subject to approval.