Used Car Search Tools

The Internet opens up our options when it comes to shopping for a used car. We are no longer limited to the used car inventory at local dealerships or in local papers; instead, we can search national databases of used and used certified cars across the country. This is great when it comes to finding the perfect year, make, and model but it can complicate purchasing because valuable vehicles are often being purchased for large amounts of money. You need to take a few precautions to protect yourself before any money changes hands.

1. Search the Online Car Classifieds

Begin your used car search by browsing online classifieds. Look for options with low mileage because you are less likely to pay as much to maintain them. Some online databases have as many as 200,000 cars and trucks because advertisements tend to run until the vehicle sells, unlike in print newspapers. When you are looking online, you are agreeing to buy the car as is so it is important to get an authentic VIN number to learn more about the vehicle’s history.

2. You Can Purchase Used Cars from Rental Agencies

Many people are unaware of the turnover that happens with rental company fleet cars. Rentals are likely to have high mileage and a few cosmetic flaws like paint scratches and small dents but the maintenance records of rental vehicles are impeccable. Rental agencies rarely bother haggling over vehicle pricing because they need to unload their newer model cars in order to make room for the latest models. Additionally, when a car becomes 1-2 years old, the rental company has already owned the vehicle through the major period of depreciation so you are making a good investment.

3. Get a Vehicle History Report

Use the VIN number to run a vehicle history check. Red flags include title branding, flooding, a salvaged title, and stolen vehicle reports. You will probably want to look at a variety of cars so find an online auto-check service that for a flat fee lets you run an unlimited number of VIN searches over the course of a month or so.

4. Protect Yourself Against Airbag Fraud

Did you know that airbags cost $800 or more to replace? That is exactly why airbag fraud is so common in the United States. When a vehicle is involved in a collision that involves airbag deployment, insurance companies usually pay to have them replaced but some repair garages will pocket the money and simply install a fake cover without the pricey airbag behind it. You have to check the vehicle’s history report carefully to ensure that the vehicle was never crashed; otherwise, you may wind up driving a car with no airbags to keep you and your passengers safe.

5. Negotiate a Fair Price with The Seller

If you are purchasing a used car through a dealership, it may be labeled as “certified used” to indicate that the dealership mechanics have done some sort of reconditioning. Find out exactly what has been done and request to see the maintenance logs. These vehicles may come with a 90-day warranty but it is important to find out what the warranty covers. When you negotiate the price, keep in mind that the dealership paid up to $4,000 below market value for the vehicle upon trade-in so you should not be expected to pay market value. The car is only worth what you or another buyer is willing to spend and the dealership needs to respect that. If they pass up your offer, the car will continue to sit in their lot and depreciate.

Check VINs Online