Buying used cars in America, without knowing where to look, can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. There are several places to buy a used car in the USA. The following is a list of some of the best options, including the positive and negative aspects of each one.
Buying used cars from a Dealer
If you already know the brand of car you would like to buy, going directly to one of their dealerships could be a great option. There you can find what is called a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle. These cars are relatively young and typically in excellent condition due to an extensive inspection process. They are also, when necessary, reconditioned with original parts from the factory. Certified Pre-Owned cars also come with a warrantee. The downside to buying a certified car is that they are often sold at a higher price than non-certified cars. You will have to decide if paying this price premium is worth the assurance of quality.
As mentioned above, used cars in America can also be sold as non-certified. This is normally the case when a brand is selling one of their own cars which is simply too old to be certified. In addition, most brand-associated dealerships also sell non-certified used cars from other manufacturers. They get these cars when someone buys a new car and trades-in their old car from a different brand. Non-certified cars also receive inspections and repairs, but not to the same level of detail as a certified vehicle. The advantage here is that because of the high volume of trade-ins, you’ll have no problem finding these types of used cars in America.
In both situations, it's recommendable to ask for the CARFAX Vehicle History Report to ensure the vehicle doesn't have anything undesirable, hiding in its history (e.g. flood damage or a salvage title).
Buying a used car from an Independent Dealership
Independent dealerships selling used cars in America are not associated with any specific auto manufacturer. You will find the sizes of these dealerships and the selection they carry to be incredibly varied. This applies to the quality of service as well. One way to ensure you’re not doing business with a disreputable dealership is to search for dealers who work directly with CARFAX. One might say, dealers in the CARFAX Advantage Program have nothing to hide; so you can feel comfortable buying from them. You can also search for and buy CARFAX Certified Pre-Owned vehicles. Another helpful resource is to check with the Better Business Bureau if the dealership has any negative reviews.
If you have a specialised type of car in mind (e.g. Classic, Muscle Car, Custom, etc.), there are independent dealerships focusing on these specific types. Ultimately, independent dealerships offer a diversified selection and some of the most exclusive used cars in America.
Buying a car from a Private Party
You will find many used cars in America being sold privately. A great way to find these cars is to look online. Some popular websites for this are AutoTrader, Craigslist, Cars.com and Ebay Motors.
The advantage of buying from a private party is that the prices are almost always lower than you'll find in a dealership. Additionally, since most people selling their cars privately don't have professional sales experience, you can often negotiate for an even better price.
One big disadvantage is that most privately sold used cars in America are outside of their warranty period. This means the car will be sold "as-is" — or exactly in the condition in which you find it. It's highly advisable to have the car inspected before buying and get a CARFAX Vehicle History Report to check for potential problems in the vehicle's history.