You can get the right used car at the best price if you’re ready with your priorities and budget. By checking the vehicle history, repair records, recalls, and safety tests, you’ll know what you’re getting for your money.


  • Before you shop around, decide what you can afford. Look at the total cost of the car. If you’re buying from a dealer, look at the down payment and monthly payments.
  • Are you paying cash, or financing the car? Be sure you understand vehicle financing.
  • Once you decide on your budget, shop around for a car in your price range. Check Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Guides to find out what a used car might be worth and what you might pay.
  • Did you find a car you like? Check it out before you buy.
  • Ask for the car’s maintenance record from the owner or dealer.
    • Test-drive the car in different conditions – highway, stop-and-go traffic, hills, and other conditions you would ordinarily drive in.
    • Is the car still under warranty or a service contract?If you buy from a dealer, check out the Buyers Guide. Learn more before you buy from a dealer. Ask the seller about the warranty, if you’re not buying from a dealer. Most used cars are sold “as is” and many warranties or service contracts that were bought separately don’t transfer with the car.
    • Look over the car using an inspection checklist. Hire a mechanic you trust to inspect the car. Don’t trust any seller who doesn’t allow you to do this.
    • Research the car’s history at When you put in Vehicle Information Number (VIN), you’ll get title, insurance loss, and salvage information for the car. Reports from other places sometimes have other information, like accident or repair history.
    • Was the car ever recalled? The US Department of Transportation’s site,, has a free list of open safety recalls. If there was a recall, ask for information showing the vehicle was repaired and the recall issues were corrected.
    • Was the car ever flood damaged or declared as salvage? You can find out from the National Insurance Crime Bureau for free.
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