How to Buy a Used Car on AutoTrader

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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Recent Pre-purchase Car Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating

(5,189)

Rating Summary
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184
37
38
83
4,847
184
37
38
83

Attila

19 years of experience
906 reviews
Attila
19 years of experience
Cadillac SRX V6-3.6L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Edison, New Jersey
Attila was great! Very knowledgeable and actually detected a fault during a pre-purchase inspection that would have cost me later.
Lexus ES350 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Fords, New Jersey
He is very good—offered all the significant details we needed from the inspection. Helped us figure out what needed to be fixed.

Shawn

12 years of experience
285 reviews
Shawn
12 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala V6-3.6L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Shawn was prompt, professional, and delivered the promised service as expected. This was a used vehicle pre-purchase inspection. Shawn also had to drive to multiple locations to perform the inspection, as the address listed that I provided him with was not accurate, but he still made it to the correct location within his time window and completed the inspection.
Toyota Sequoia - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Akron, Pennsylvania
Shawn was very prompt in communicating with me and was good at helping me decide whether to purchase a used car. He help me avoid a car with a repaired rusted frame that could be a danger to my family's safety since we were planning on using the car to tow a travel trailer!

Luis

18 years of experience
320 reviews
Luis
18 years of experience
Honda HR-V L4-1.8L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Warren, New Jersey
Luis was great. He showed up on time, acted professionally, and gave me confidence with a pre-purchase car inspection.
Acura RDX - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - South Hackensack, New Jersey
Luis did a thorough pre-purchase inspection for me, and found several major issues that made me pass on buying the car. Had I purchased the car, I almost certainly would have ended up paying thousands in repairs down the road. Thanks Luis!

Robert

20 years of experience
1089 reviews
Robert
20 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra L4-2.0L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Englewood, Colorado
He did a pre-purchase inspection for me. He was knowledgeable and fast, and knew what he was looking for. I really appreciate all the pictures and documentation he took of the state of the car before purchase. He noted potential issues with the car that I wouldn't have been able to notice. Would recommend.
GMC Savana 1500 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Golden, Colorado
I trust Robert. He gave me a list and we will take care of it the week of June 29. I will know then that my vehicle is ready for the winter and is safe to drive. I look forward to getting things ready for another winter of careful driving.

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