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Best Places to Buy a Used Car

Posted by Charlie Maniates | May 27, 2020

Aerial view of a car dealership

Finding a good deal is oftentimes the primary goal of a car shopper, and the potential for savings can fluctuate based on where a car is being sold. Of course, one must also remember to assess the risk of each used car source to avoid sacrificing quality for savings. With so many options and the potential to be ripped off, it can be difficult to choose where to make a used car purchase – here are some of the best places to buy a used car with the level of risk that each place poses.

1. Automaker Branded Dealerships

Automaker dealerships can have quite a bit of used inventory from trade-ins, auctions and expired leases. While you may not find the lowest price at these dealerships due to factors that drive up their overhead costs, you can still find affordable models with longevity. This is especially true for certified pre-owned models that have undergone an extensive inspection with dozens of checkpoints and usually come with extended warranties.

2. Independent Dealerships

Without new car inventories and no automaker association, independent dealerships carry lower overhead costs. So, you’ll stand to find lower prices, but they come with added risk. Take the time to research an independent dealership and read reviews before visiting to ensure that it’s a reputable business. You should also thoroughly inspect any vehicle you’re considering buying before having a trusted mechanic take a close look at it.

3. Automotive Retailers

Marketplace retailers, such as CarMax and Carvana, have vast used car inventories. Some also abide by hassle-free, no-haggle processes and pay their employees a flat commission to enable them to focus on finding the best car for your wants and needs. This means you may not find the lowest price or have the ability to negotiate, but you might find that there’s less risk involved than with a traditional independent dealership.

4. Private Sellers

Private sellers can list their cars on a variety of online marketplaces, including Craigslist, Facebook and eBay. You’ll likely be able to find a lower price from a private seller than a dealership or retailer, but the drawback is you have to play by that individual’s rules. Be sure to ask the right questions and run through an inspection checklist. You should also require them to allow a trusted mechanic to examine the vehicle – if they deny that request, it’s probably best to walk away.

5. Impound Auctions

You’ll pay the lowest price for a used car at an impound auction, but your risk is maximized because these vehicles are sold as-is and your ability to assess them beforehand varies from auction to auction.

Conclusion

The best place to buy a car will vary based on your priorities and abilities as a shopper. If you have minimal knowledge of cars and place emphasis on reliability, you might consider higher cost options that minimize risk. If you’re confident in your ability to evaluate a used car’s condition and want to minimize cost as much as possible, you might find the right model among lower-cost options. In any case, you should do the best job you can to determine whether a used car is worth its price tag.

Find your perfect car.

Auto.com is the top online marketplace selling used cars for sale near you. With a wide array of online resources, it is a one-stop shop for all your car research and car-buying needs.

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