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 November 13, 2019
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So you’re in the market for a new-to-you (used) car? Congratulations! You have plenty of company. In 2018, more than 40 million used cars were purchased in the United States, and Edmunds analysts predict that in 2019, almost 41 million used cars could be purchased. Buying used is a smart choice, saving you money on insurance, registration and taxes. However, before you make a purchase, 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.
  • Pick a seller—You can purchase a used car from a private seller or dealership, whether you found it online or visited the lot. No matter where you go, be sure to comparison shop. The Navy Federal Auto Buying Program has a great side-by-side comparison tool to ensure that you find the best vehicle that fits your needs. The service 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 exclusive member 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®.*
  • 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, it’s important to understand how much you can afford to spend, as well as how you can get the best deal for your money.
  • Take care of some new-car housekeeping—Now that you’ve purchased your new-to-you vehicle, be sure you understand your next steps, including making sure you have insurance lined up, registering the vehicle with your state and reviewing the manual to understand its features.

*Navy Federal Credit Union is in no way responsible for the accuracy of the CARFAX Vehicle History Report. Access to CARFAX Vehicle History Reports is subject to CARFAX consumer Terms and Conditions. CARFAX is a registered trademark of CARFAX, Inc.

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.