Don’t Get Taken for a Ride: 8 Tips and Tricks for Shopping at Pre-Owned Car Dealerships

Around 40 million pre-owned cars are sold in America each year. There are a huge used-car market and a plethora of pre-owned car dealerships.

Some are fantastic deals that result in you driving away in an affordable and reliable car. Others are masterful cons, that will have you with your head in your hands suffering from buyer’s remorse.

So, how do you make sure that you’re the latter? That you shop for a pre-owned car and don’t get taken for a ride?

Keep reading to find out how to navigate buying a pre-owned vehicle from a dealership.

1. Do Your Research

Before shopping at pre-owned car dealerships, do your research. Look online at different used cars, reviews, and lifespan. You’ll need to figure out which cars are the most reliable pre-owned vehicles and which fit into your budget.

This way, you can create a list of target cars based on thorough research which you can bring with you to the dealership. Rather than being persuaded into a car by a salesman, you’ll arrive knowing what you’re looking for and what is a safe and affordable purchase for you.

2. Get the Vehicle History Report

This is an absolute non-negotiable step when you’re buying a certified pre-owned car. If you’ve found a car that you like ask for the vehicle history report. If the dealership cannot provide you with one, ditch the car and don’t look back.

You need to know whether the car has had a bad history of accidents and issues. The report will also tell you vital information that will give you insight into whether you’re being hoodwinked. It will indicate whether the odometer has been rolled back, or if it has a salvage title.

3. Test Drive the Car

When you’ve found a car, or possibly even more than one, that you like and it has a clean vehicle history, always take it on a test drive. You absolutely need to test the car that you’re considering purchasing. Otherwise, you may suffer buyer’s remorse the first time you drive it after you’ve signed the cheque.

When you test drive the car you’ll be able to see if it’s comfortable for you, whether it’s spacious enough, if you like the way it drives, and so on.

4. Don’t Buy Based on Looks

Don’t be tricked into buying a pre-owned car simply because it looks good. It’s surprisingly easy to spruce up a piece of junk to make it look much more reliable than it is.

You might get carried away with a ‘cool’ looking car, or one with aesthetic features. You should stick to the list you’ve made of good cars that fit your needs.

If you’re buying a car from an online dealership such as then browse the cars on the internet first, so that you can find the best one for you.

5. Have the Car Inspected

So you’ve found a great car, the test drive went well and you’re just about to jump into making a deal. Hold up just a little bit longer. The truth of the matter is that you probably don’t have expert knowledge of cars. You won’t be able to identify excessive wear on important parts or damaged components.

Getting the car inspected by an independent third-party mechanic ensures that you won’t be dealing with extensive repairs a few weeks or months after purchasing the vehicle.

Many of the best pre-owned car dealerships will cover the costs of this inspection, and it’s a service you should always ask for. However, ensure that you find the mechanic as you don’t want someone inspecting your car who works for the dealership.

Once you have an expert, objective opinion about the condition of the car, then you can make an informed decision.

6.  Negotiate for a Deal

Negotiating the price of the car is an important part of buying pre-owned cars. You should never just accept the first price as it is usually very inflated.

This may be a daunting step, but it’s an important one. Use all the information you have about the car to try to drive the price down. You can even do a price check with other dealers to back up your argument.

Decide ahead of time how much you are willing to spend and offer a lower amount in your initial discussions.

7. Take Out an Extended Warranty

If the used car is no longer protected by a manufacturer’s warranty, then you should get an extended warranty.

This extended warranty ranges from the bare necessities to complex repairs. You can rest assured that even though you’ve purchased a pre-owned vehicle, your purchase is protected.

8. Be Prepared to Walk Away

You’ll hear, “it’s a bargain of a lifetime,” or “you won’t find such a steal anywhere else,” and “don’t miss this amazing opportunity.”

It’s tempting when you’re in need of a new car and you’ve got a persuasive salesman in your ear to jump at the first opportunity to buy a car.

Give yourself time and avoid making a rushed, impulsive decision. Ask the right questions, insist on due process, and don’t skip out on any of the testing, research, and inspecting.

In other words, be prepared to walk away from a “deal of a lifetime” to save yourself buyer’s remorse from a bad decision.

Prepare Yourself for Shopping at Pre-Owned Car Dealerships

Buying a pre-owned car can be overwhelming. You need to prepare yourself to do all the research, testing and inspecting that’s required to make sure you come out of a dealership with a great car.

Before heading to one of the pre-owned car dealerships in your area, do your research and brush up on your negotiating skills so that you don’t get taken for a ride.

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