5 Shopping Tips for Buying a Used Vehicle

October 11th, 2019 by

After searching for 'used car dealership near me,' a man is at a car dealership looking at a used car.

There are many reasons people make the decision to look into used vehicles instead of new ones. Maybe you need a less-expensive replacement for a car on its last legs or perhaps it’s about time to get your son or daughter their very first car. Whatever the reason may be, not too many people look forward to the experience of hunting for a used vehicle. And, that’s exactly what it can be – a hunt. You have to carefully prepare yourself for the day by looking up some shopping tips for buying used vehicles and then search online “used car dealership near me,” and then you jump right into the rugged wilderness of used car lots and pushy salesmen.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. The process of searching for and then finding your perfect used vehicle can actually be quite smooth and enjoyable. If you’re well prepared, know what you’re looking for, and are working with trustworthy individuals, then it should really be a simple and easy experience.

Check out these five shopping tips for buying a used vehicle.

#1. Do Your Research

Wandering onto a used car lot without knowing anything beforehand is like winging that final exam that’s worth a majority of your grade. It’s just not the best way to go about things. Before you ever even step foot on a lot, you should get online and look up used car dealerships near you. Check out their websites, check out their inventory, and read the reviews. It’s best to get a general feel for a place before you head there to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars. And, if you have any questions, you can always give them a quick call before heading in.

The Website

A dealership’s website is a good approximation of how the actual experience is going to be. If a company has put in the time, money, and effort to give an overall great web-browsing experience, then the chances are the in-person experience will be great as well. 

A website can answer many of your questions right off the bat. First, what is actually being sold? Is this a Ford dealership? Chevy? Is it all types of vehicles or just cars or trucks? Are there plenty of photos of the actual vehicles? How much inventory is there? Do the building and lot look nice and well-kept?

You can also look into a few other things on the website, such as specials, services, parts and accessories, and financing. If any of those are important to you, then having that information readily available at the click of a button can be extremely helpful.


Reviews can be found in a few different places, but quite often, you’ll find them right on Google, Facebook, or even some specific review sites (like Yelp). When it comes to reviews, it’s important to realize many different factors can be involved when someone decides to take time to write some words about their experience. Normally, people that have good experiences don’t tend to leave reviews unless the experience was really exceptional. However, when it comes to car-buying experiences, the stakes are a little higher (more expensive) than if you were just grabbing some fast-food and they forgot your fries. A lot of people actually will leave good reviews when they’ve had a great car-buying experience because it’s a much bigger event in their lives.

If a used car dealership near you generally has good reviews, then you should expect to have a good experience. It’s near-impossible for any company to satisfy every customer, so you should always expect a few bad reviews in there. However, you should still realize that if there are only a few bad reviews out of hundreds or even thousands of good ones, everything should be just fine.

If you see lots and lots of bad reviews, then you might want to consider staying away.

#2. Set Your Budget

Setting your budget before going to a dealership is a great way to look and feel prepared before talking to a salesperson. It will really help you focus on the vehicles that you can actually afford instead of wasting time on the ones that will be out of your budget. You may not realize it, but there are a lot of very expensive used vehicles. This can include luxury brands or simply pre-owned vehicles that really haven’t been used all that much. Sure, they’ll be less expensive than if they were new, but sometimes a vehicle doesn’t depreciate too much and might still have a higher price tag.

A woman is working on her laptop and using a calculator to figure out her budget for a car.

If you know what your budget is, you can easily use a car dealership’s website to filter out anything outside of the range you’re looking in. This will present all the options of vehicles available to you in just a matter of seconds. That way, you’re able to know what’s available and affordable for you before heading to the lot.

#3. Know What You’re Looking For

As important as it is to have a set budget in mind, it’s equally important to either have an exact idea of the type of vehicle you’re looking for or at least generally know you’d want a certain make and/or model. 

If you know you specifically want a car versus a truck or SUV, then you’ve just filtered out dozens or hundreds of available vehicles. This will significantly reduce the amount of time you’ll spend searching for a used vehicle.

If you know the exact make and model, plus additional items, like colors, year range, and mileage range — that’s even better. You can, of course, run the risk of being too specific with all of your choices and finding there’s no availability, but it’s still better to know what you want instead of going into this without a clue. Again, a company’s website is a great place to look through pre-owned inventory, especially if you’re able to filter between many different options.

#4. Know What to Look Out For

When it comes time to head to the dealership, you should be feeling a lot more prepared. Really, at this point, you should be heading to a reputable company (you’ve done your research), and you have specific vehicles in mind that you want to take a look at. You’ve also called ahead to make sure the website is updated, and those vehicles are still available.

Now, it’s time to see the machines in person. If you’re not very knowledgeable about cars, it could prove very useful to bring in a friend or family member that knows their way around a vehicle. They can help you look for any issues with the car that might deem it unworthy of purchasing. However, keep in mind that any reputable company should have already put their pre-owned vehicles through comprehensive testing and have deemed them ready for selling.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to look out for dings and dents and then taking it for a test drive to see how everything is running, including the electrical system, brakes, acceleration, shifting, and anything else you can think of. 

#5. Choose the Best Dealership

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to find the best dealership. One that has what you’re looking for and will make your experience a great one. At DePaula Ford here in Albany, NY, we invite you to check out our large selection of new and pre-owned vehicles, either on the website or straight at the dealership. Our service-oriented professionals look forward to hearing from you and guiding you in the process of finding that perfect vehicle to suit your needs. So, come and see how we can help you today!