Over the years I have been through more cars most people own in a lifetime. Primarily I buy used cars and while I’ve found a gem here and there, most of the cars I’ve bought were short lived and mostly pieces of junk. I’ve found that buying a used car is always a risk no matter if it’s bought from a dealer or a private seller. Here are some things I’ve learned over time that will help you make sure you’re purchasing a good car that will last you for a long time.

Know Your Price Range

The amount of money you have to spend on a vehicle will directly affect the type of car you will be buying and it’s good to know the type you can afford. For example, if you have $2,000 or under you wouldn’t want to look at high end cars like a sports car or luxury vehicle. While you may be able to find one within your price range, there will almost certainly be something wrong with it. I learned this lesson twice over and just like many other things in life, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is. Research types of cars and what prices you should expect online at places like Kelly Blue Book’s online resource base.


The first thing I now do when researching a potential buy is to learn everything I can find about the model and year of the car. Try to find information on things such as known weak points, typical repair, price points, and typical insurance rates. Try looking at the official forum community for the type of car you want to find details of ongoing problems or pros and cons. Luckily, these people have already had a good amount of experience with that type of car. The more you know the less chance you’ll have of making a mistake and buying a car you don’t really want.

Check The Auction Block

If you’re looking to buy a car and money is a key factor, try to find the nearest auto auction and go to at least twice. Go the first time to check things out and see how things work, but unless you see a car that is the most incredible deal you’ve ever encountered try to hold out. While cars at auctions have a history and often some minor technical problems, most states require the auction houses to only sell cars that have current inspection plus both start and run. Even with the minor repairs I had to do on the two cars that I’ve purchased at an auction, I still came out thousands of dollars ahead in value.

Look At The Seller, Not Just The Car

When purchasing a used car, especially privately, take a good look at the person you’re buying from and whether they seem like a good person. Ask yourself if the person selling you the car seems trustworthy or if they seem like they would disclose and problems they have had with the car. If the answer to this question is no, it may be time to move on to the next option or dealership. While it is true you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, our intuition can take us a long way in situations like this. When I’ve had these thoughts and then went with my impulse and bought the car anyway it has always turned out bad for me.

Be Ok With Walking Away

This is the thing I struggle with the most and I’d assume is one of the biggest reasons people still end up with a bad used car, we don’t say no and walk away. Buying a car can be an exciting experience but when looking at the car in person make sure you keep your emotions under control so you don’t buy something you’ll regret later. This often works in a beneficial way as well by pushing the person selling the car to lower their price before they lose a potential sale. I’ve had more than one dealership lower the cost considerably when I told them that the car might not be for me and that I was going to check out other cheaper offers.

Use these tips to keep from buying a lemon and to enjoy your car for years after purchasing. Remember, while there are many good deals out there, the pitfalls are much more abundant and you need to be careful when choosing your next used car. With a little luck and perseverance you’ll find the perfect fit. Good Luck!