Just the thought of car-shopping is enough to put a bad taste in most people’s mouths. Stories abound of well-intentioned customers getting talked into a pricey new ride by smooth-talking salesmen. That’s particularly true when it comes to used-car shopping: No one wants to end up with a lemon, and first-time car buyers are often particularly nervous about buying a used vehicle in need of extensive work down the road—or in the next month or two.
Still, the lower prices that come with used cars make them undeniably appealing—especially if you’re working with a tight budget. As long as you do your homework and ask plenty of questions before signing on the dotted line, it’s absolutely possible to buy a quality used car that will serve you well for years to come.
To help consumers make a savvy car-buying decision, CoPilot compiled a list of 10 key things to consider when deciding to buy a used car from expert sources such as financial outlets, insurance companies, and government agencies. Think of these 10 steps as a framework you can use to approach the car-buying process, from the moment you start shopping to finally negotiating with the seller or dealer.
Before you head to the nearest dealership or even start browsing online listings, read through this list to ensure you know what you’re really looking for and how to evaluate whether a used car is a good deal or not. It’s not as simple as finding a cute model in a great color that’s the right price; you also need to discern how much wear and tear is on the vehicle. Keep reading to learn the difference between highway and city miles, find out why the VIN number is so important, and discover the few things you might want to do in person.