How to Buy a Used Car on AutoTrader

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The online vehicle aggregator site AutoTrader.com allows you to quickly and effectively search through thousands of used vehicles sold by dealers and private sellers. On the AutoTrader site, you can find vehicle reviews, advice for shopping, and car financing comparison and insurance tools. In order to take advantage of all that AutoTrader.com offers, first take some time to learn how to use the site.

Method 1 of 1: How to buy a used car on AutoTrader.com

Materials Needed

  • Cell phone
  • Computer
  • Paper and pencil

Knowing how to navigate and use the resources provided on the AutoTrader website can help you find a high-quality pre-owned car at an affordable price. By following a few quick and easy steps, you can find and purchase the right pre-owned car for you, including the color, age, mileage, and specifications of the vehicle.

Step 1: Create a budget. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on a car by creating a budget. Keep in mind any registration and tax fees that may apply if not already renewed by the current vehicle owners.

Step 2: Seek financing. Arrange financing before shopping for a used car. Shopping around for financing allows you to avoid the fees that many dealers charge for financing your vehicle.

Some reliable places to look for financing includes your bank or credit union. When looking for financing, pay attention to the interest rate offered, as this affects the final price you pay on the vehicle.

Step 2: Pick a car. Decide what type of car you want. This requires you to input important information using the AutoTrader search function, including your location and how far from your location you are willing to travel, the minimum and maximum price you want to spend, and the style of car you prefer.

Some other information you need to enter includes the year, make, model, mileage, and any features or specifications you seek.

Last, but not least, enter whether you want to buy from a dealer, private seller, or both. Once you submit your choices, a list of vehicles that match your search will pop up.

  • Tip: Check the vehicle's reliability record before choosing the type of car that you want. Luckily, on AutoTrader you can find automotive reviews that allow you to determine if a vehicle is right for you.

Some other sites that offer reliability histories on different vehicle makes and models include J.D Power and Consumer Reports.

auto trader comparison tool

Step 4: Use AutoTrader's perks. Once you find a few vehicles that you like and that fit your budget, you can either save them to your AutoTrader profile or compare them.

Clicking on a vehicle listing gives you access to a variety of information, including how much your estimated payment would be at the current listed price, a place to make your offer, the worth of your trade-in if any, and how much of a down payment you want to make.

You can also find photographs of the vehicle, the features the vehicle has, and details for that particular model of vehicle.

  • Tip: AutoTrader offers a handy comparison tool. This tool allows you to compare vehicles according to trim levels, price difference, mileage, fuel economy, engine cylinders, and transmission type.

autotrader where to find carfax link

Step 5: Check vehicle history. Check out the free vehicle history report offered with pre-owned vehicles sold by dealers.

Otherwise, if you are serious about purchasing a particular vehicle through a private seller, purchase the Carfax yourself, or use the service offered through AutoTrader, which also costs a fee.

The Carfax on a vehicle also tells you if a vehicle has ever been declared as a salvage vehicle by the insurance company due to a wreck or other circumstance, such as if it has water damage.

  • Tip: Take along a second pair of eyes if you look at the vehicle in person. This can be a friend or family member who is knowledgeable about different types of vehicles. Your partner's main goal is to keep you from making an impulse buy, as they may notice an issue with the vehicle that you do not see.

Step 6: Pre-purchase inspection. Next, get the seller to have a pre-purchase inspection performed by a trusted mechanic.

There is a charge associated with this, but if you are serious about purchasing the vehicle, this is a necessary step to ensure there are no unforeseen problems with the pre-owned car.

back of vehicle title highlighting important areas

Step 7: Transferring the title. Once you have found the vehicle you want and are serious about buying, make sure you know the requirements in your area for transferring an automotive title.

  • Tip: Making sure the title is clear before buying can save you a lot of headaches in the future. You also need to find out if any inspections are outstanding for the vehicle, as the costs fall to you once you purchase the vehicle.

Step 8: Make an offer. Now it is time to make an offer. Some but not all listings allow you to make an offer on a vehicle.

Once you have entered your offer, credit score, financing, trade-in value, down payment, and valid email, you are ready to send your offer.

Finding a good pre-owned car on AutoTrader.com is easy if you know what you are doing. As when purchasing any pre-owned vehicle, make sure to have a trusted mechanic, such as those you can find at YourMechanic, perform a pre-purchase car inspection before committing to buying the car.


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3,862
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Ben

39 years of experience
1113 reviews
Ben
39 years of experience
Toyota Camry - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Houston, Texas
Ben was professional and extremely thorough with the pre-purchase inspection. He was able to recognize and find issues that were not disclosed by the seller. His extremely thorough report allowed me to negotiate better after my findings and get a better deal. Ben was on time and friendly. He is very knowledgeable and was up front about everything. I would definitely recommend him if purchasing a new vehicle and will use him again if services are needed.
Lexus ES350 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Spring, Texas
Ben was absolutely professional and right to the point. Ben pointed out discrepancies about my Lexus honestly... I definitely will call upon Ben if any work needs to be done to my Vehicles. An Awesome Mechanic..

Torrieanto

10 years of experience
473 reviews
Torrieanto
10 years of experience
Jeep Wrangler - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Largo, Florida
Torrieanto did a fantastic job on a used car pre-purchase inspection. He was very thorough and took the time to explain the technical details and ramifications to me. He also gave me peace of mind with my purchase and a few negotiating points to further reduce the purchase price.
Lexus IS200t - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Tampa, Florida
Went above and beyond. Really took his time and was very professional. Great customer service. Thank you!

Gus

15 years of experience
16 reviews
Gus
15 years of experience
Audi A6 Quattro - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Arlington Heights, Illinois
Gus was great! He talked with me before and after he did his inspection and was very informative. He walked me through what he checked and what he recommended to replace/service on the vehicle for optimal performance. I would definitely recommend him!
Chevrolet Camaro - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Elk Grove Village, Illinois
My experienced with Gus was great. He was very personable, friendly, knowledgeable, professional, friendly, and knowledgeable.

Jose

8 years of experience
2 reviews
Jose
8 years of experience
Hyundai Genesis Coupe - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Chicago, Illinois
Jose was right on time, listened to what I had to say about the car’s history. He did a thorough inspection on the car and pointed out the necessary adjustments for a healthier car. Would definitely need his services for the next project.

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