The Ultimate Used Car Buying Guide

With a little planning and research, you can get a great deal on a used car. Our Used Car Buying Guide can help.

By Navy Federal July 28, 2017

So you’re in the market for a new-to-you (used) car? Congratulations! You have plenty of company. An average of 40 million used cars are purchased each year in the United States.* Buying used is a smart choice, saving you money on insurance, registration and taxes. However, before you make an offer, it’s important to do a little research. With a little planning and forethought, you’ll be able to find the used car that’s the perfect fit for your lifestyle and budget. Our Used Car Buying Guide can help.

  • Set a budget—While it’s true that a used car will typically cost less than a brand new car, you’ll still need to budget accordingly. Your budget should factor in cost, insurance and maintenance, among other expenses. Our Used Car Calculator can help you determine how much your car will cost.
  • Figure out what you want—There are lots of used cars from which to choose. Make a list of the features that are most important to you, but don’t compromise on your must-haves.
  • Get pre-approved—By securing your financing plan before you visit the dealer or a private seller, you have the power to negotiate confidently. You'll know exactly what you can afford so you can concentrate on bargaining for a fair price on the car.
  • Pick a seller—You can purchase a used car from a private seller or a dealership, whether you found it online or visited the lot. No matter where you go, be sure to comparison shop. Edmunds has a great tool for finding the true market value of a used car. The Navy Federal Auto Buying Program can help you locate a dealer who can work with you to find the features you want in a car, as well as provide a simplified hassle-free buying experience, with low, established pricing.
  • Ensure you’re buying the best—Don’t get stuck with a lemon. Ask these questions to make sure you’re buying the best possible used car.
  • Do your homework—Be sure you test drive and check out the history of any car you’re considering. Use the vehicle identification number (VIN) and get a detailed vehicle history report from Carfax or AutoCheck.
  • Trade in and up—If your current vehicle is in good shape, but you’re ready for a new set of wheels, you may be able to trade it in to a dealer and get credit toward the purchase of a new used vehicle.
  • Negotiate a good deal—Whether you’re buying from a private seller or dealer, use these tips to negotiate a good deal.

Now that you’ve purchased your new-to-you vehicle, it’s time to take care of some housekeeping. Check out these next steps to ensure you can maintain your vehicle for years to come.


This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.