How to Buy a Used Car on AutoTrader | YourMechanic Advice

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 3: 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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Jason

14 years of experience
116 reviews
Jason
14 years of experience
Toyota Corolla - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Jamaica, New York
I recommend Jason. I know little about cars and needed him to check out a car for me. Jason did a pre purchase car inspection for me. He explained what looked good and what looked to be of concern about the car. If it was a concern, he explained what needed to be done to get the car in good shape before the purchase. He had all the equipment to check out the car. I would book him again for any other services as he knows what he's doing and is friendly.
Kia Rio - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Brooklyn, New York
Jason did a thorough job inspecting a car I was considering buying and answered all my questions after the inspection

Willie

23 years of experience
38 reviews
Willie
23 years of experience
Toyota 4Runner - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Cerritos, California
Williec was definitely professional.and I would use his services again.He is very honest and was very thorough with inspecting the vehicle I purchased.Thank you Willie.
Mitsubishi 3000GT - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Long Beach, California
Mechanic was professional and knowledgeable about cars. His recommendation was excellent and appreciated. I would definitely recommend this mechanic to others.

Attila

18 years of experience
566 reviews
Attila
18 years of experience
Volvo XC70 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Plainfield, New Jersey
Attila was very throughrout with the inspection of the car and confirmed my suspicions about the breaks
Volkswagen Jetta - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Englewood, New Jersey
Mr. Attila is very knowledgeable about cars and he gave me good advice for future reference. Very kind and nice!

MICHAEL

32 years of experience
164 reviews
MICHAEL
32 years of experience
Ford Fusion - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania
Michael was enjoyable to talk to. He gave me an honest, non-bias opinion of the vehicle I was considering buying. I was an out of state buyer, so having someone to rely on was important. I loved the pictures and the audio he included in his report, it was through. He pointed out a few things the dealer failed to bring up. Because of him I am deciding to move forward with the "deal"

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