| Lifestyle

So You Want To Buy A Pre-Owned Vehicle!?

%image_alt%Some Twitter and Facebook friends already know, but for the past week, I’ve been shopping for a new car… well, a Pre-Owned car, but new to me! I just moved back to my hometown in Massachusetts and upon arrival, my car said “Peace Out!” and just died on me! Well, needless to say, that was my cue to start shopping for another vehicle (I guess my battery dying about three times a day should have been my cue, but HEY… I just like to be sure, lol).

Anyway, I haven’t nailed down which car I’m going to purchase yet, we’re still out negotiating prices, but I thought I’d share some tips on buying a Pre-Owned Car in case you ever find yourself in the same predicament.

Tip 1:

Don’t be eager. Shop for a car BEFORE you need it, so you don’t have to settle for something out of desperation.

Tip 2:

Figure out about how much you want to spend and see if you can get Pre-Approved by your bank before stepping onto a dealership. A lot of dealerships want to be your financial institution because they make money when you pay for your vehicle each month through the interest.

If you get Pre-Approved by a bank first, the dealer will try and pursuade you to finance through them, which means you can negotiate a lower price for the car by saying you’ll finance through them instead. Also, they will try and beat the interest rate of the bank you are pre-approved with in order to get you to work with them! So it’s a great weapon to have in your pocket during negotiations!

Just don’t mention financing or being Pre-Approved until you are asked. If they ask about financing, then tell them you are Pre-Approved. They will ask if you’d consider financing through the dealer (them), and you can reply with “… if the price is right, I might consider it.”

Tip 3:

Figure out exactly what vehicle you want before negotiating. Filipe and I weren’t sure, so we went to a dealership and test drove 4 cars. We told the sales associate that we DID NOT want to talk numbers, only wanted to test drive. He politely agreed to respect our wishes. After test-driving the cars, we agreed that we were looking for a Honda Civic around 30,000 to 50,000 miles in the 2007-2009 range. But of course, we didn’t tell this to the sales associate, we just thanked him and left.


We then went back home and looked online at autowebsites like autotrader.com to figure out where our dream car resided. We made a list of every vehicle we could find in a 30 mile radius that fit our description of what we wanted. We printed out the names of every reputable delearship that carried the car, as well as the actual car we were interested in, including the Carfax for each car and NADA reports for Honda Civics between 2007 and 2009.

It is important that you print out the Carfax and NADA reports for the vehicles.

Carfax Reports give you every detail of what your potential car has been through before it landed at the dealership. So if it’s been in an accident, it will be listed. You can use that information when negotiating! For example, would you spend more for a 2007 Honda Civic that’s been in an accident over a 2007 Honda Civic that has a clean record? No, you wouldn’t. So you can negotiate with the dealer using the accident as a means to get a lower price on the car… or if you want a car with a clean record, disregard the car all together. The Carfax Reports are another weapon in your arsenal!

NADA Reports tell you how much each vehicle is actually worth based on the year it was made and the make/model. You can use these reports to find out if you are getting a good deal or not. It also tells you the trade in values of each car and how much a dealer usually sells the car for.

Okay, so now you have all the vehicles printed out, the Carfax Reports and NADA Reports… this brings us to:

Tip 4:

It’s Hustle Time! Get to your first dealer.. preferably a dealer with a car that you don’t necessarily want. You will use this dealer to get a low price on the vehicle because you don’t want it in the first place, so it will be easy to say no… to everthing.

Test drive the vehicle, if you like it, great, if not, see what you can get for it. First things first, the sticker price will ALWAYS be higher than the internet price, so don’t even look at that sticker price. You know the internet price, so let the salesman know what the internet price is. If you are looking at a car that you did not see on the internet, (perhaps the salesman suggested you look at it), ask them what the internet price is. There is ALWAYS an internet price. After getting that price, negotiations will go something like this:

Dealer: “So what do you think about the car?”

You: “It’s okay. How low can you go on it?”

Dealer: “Well, the internet price is as low as we go. It’s a great deal [Blah, Blah, Blah]…”

You: “So you can’t go any lower than $___.__?”

Dealer: “Well, what are you looking to pay?”

..When they ask this, go lower than what you are looking to pay. They will never accept your lowest bid, you need to tell them something that’s at least $1,500 lower. so you have room to negotiate.

Once you get the lowest price you can get, say, “..okay, we need time to think about it. We’ll get back to you” and stand up to leave. Now, I’m sure at this point you’ve spoken with the manager because the sales associate ALWAYS gets the manager to come out to be the “bad guy” and deliver the “bad news” to you of not getting the car for what you want. Yea, yea, yea, it’s the old “Good Cop|Bad Cop” routine, don’t let it fool you. Keep your head straight. If they keep throwing offers at you, like free incentives to get you to “BUY NOW” just write it down and remember that they offered it to you. You should have a list of every thing the dealer is offering you for each car and the lowest price they are willing to go.

So you’ve got the lowest price you can get there.. for now (they’ll be calling you back)… time to go to the next dealer…

Tip 5:

Now with the new offer you’ve received from the first dealer, you’ve got some pretty great negotiating tools at your disposal. So go and look at your next car. After test-driving it, it’s time to get negotiations started. Do the same exact thing you did at the first dealer. Try and get that price as low as possible, not mentioning the first car. If you can’t get that dealer any lower, it’s time to bring out the first car. Just mention that you’ve got the same exact car here for $__.__ less than what they are offering… then ask them, “… can you beat that price?”

So, you get the point now? Use the information at your disposal!

Another great tool that you have is all of those cars that you printed out before leaving for the dealer. If there’s a dealer trying to keep you at say $14,000 for a 2007 Honda Civic with 50,000 miles, and you have a sheet of paper showing the same 2007 Honda Civic with 50,000 miles at another dealership for $13,500… well, it looks like they’re going to have to lower their price to get your business.

Tip 6:

%image_alt%This is one of the MOST IMPORTANT tips in buying a car! If you have a trade-in vehicle (when you give your old car to the dealership in exchange for money off your new vehicle), DO NOT mention it until AFTER you have negotiated the lowest price possible.

They will ask you during negotiations if you have a trade-in vehicle; just say “… as of right now, I don’t think so… “ The trade-in vehicle is the biggest weapon in your arsenal! DO NOT let it out the bag until YOU have the lowest price possible.

Why? Because if you let the dealer know you have a trade-in, they will find out how much it’s worth and try and negotiate that price into the final price of the car, so it seems like you’re getting a good deal… well, you’re not! It’ll only look like a good deal because they’ve subtracted the price of your trade-in! Well, you’re going to get that price subtracted off anyway, so wait until it’s as low as possible!

What I recommend is to negotiate the lowest price possible across every dealership you visit. Once you’ve found the car you want to buy, shake hands and give the down payment to hold the car. Do NOT pay for it that day. The dealer will try and push you to buy the car that day because they want to get it off the lot as soon as possible. Well, the down payment will guarantee that the car will be held for you and if you change your mind you get your money back. Come back the next day to sign papers and finalize everything. Make sure you drive the car that you want to trade in to the dealership that day and make sure you have the title for it.

Once you sit down to sign papers, tell the dealer “I’ve found a vehicle that I want to trade-in, what can I get for it.” LOL! #OhhSNAP! Thus begins the negotiations again! This is why you take your time when buying a vehicle, so you can get the BEST PRICE POSSIBLE!

Okay, so now the trade-in is on the table. Make sure that you know the KellyBlueBook.com value and NADA value for your car BEFORE going to the dealer. They will likely offer you the Blue Book value. Now, this is up to you… you can accept their offer for the car, or tell them that you want more for it, (now I’d only request more for my car if I KNEW it was in perfect shape…) But yes, you can negotiate the price for your trade-in vehicle as well. You can look at your NADA report for the vehicle and see what the average trade-in value of that car is and what they will likely be re-selling your car for. If they are re-selling your car for $8,000 and they are trying to only give you $2,000 for your trade-in, you can point to the NADA report and say, “ummm, no… you will be selling this car for a lot more, I need at least $3,000 for it” (or whatever amount you choose). Get the point? Your trade-in vehicle = CASH! DO NOT just give it away! The dealer WILL be making money off your car, so you should get a piece of that pie too!

Okay… so I’ve said a lot here… let’s reiterate:

  1. Don’t Be Eager
  2. Try and get Pre-Approved by a bank
  3. Know what you’re looking for
  4. Head to the dealer WITH Ammo in hand: CarFax, NADA, Listed Internet-Priced Cars all in the same milage and year-range
  5. Negotiate the lowest price possible, but don’t commit
  6. Do NOT mention that you’re Pre-Approved until asked, and use it at the end of negotiations for a lower price
  7. Do NOT mention your trade-in vehicle until you are ready to sign papers. If they can’t give you close to what you want for the vehicle, (and be fair guys, don’t ask for $4,000 for a broke down 1990 Chevy, lol) tell them you’ll have to reconsider. Get your down payment refunded and head to a dealer that you’ve negotiated with previously, that has a car you like.

%image_alt%Wow! That was a long excerpt! But buying a car is a LONG process, which is why I’m still in negotiations! Luckily we got our old car fixed and that gives us some breathing room so we’re not so desperate! I’ll definitely let you guys know what we end up buying and for how much! It’s actually quite fun to be in the driver’s seat of buying a car when you actually know what you’re doing! Once you’ve got a HUGE list of cars that you could possibly go for, you don’t feel the pressure to take on dealers “Final Offer”.

Good Luck and Happy Hunting!

XoXo Whit


Reader Comments

You don't know how happy I am that you posted this article. I am constantly looking for a new/pre-owned car to purchase but don't have the car buying savvy to do so. I want to go by myself and the information you posted gives me such amo to go in to any car dealership with confidence that I will get the best deal possible. THANK YOU!!!

Haha ! This article is so funny 😉
The photo's too !
Thanks for making me laugh that hard 😉 !!

The picture is adorable at the end!! LOL But I am soo glad I came across this! Now I am set for life. (:
Thanks for posting!

I am going to be saving this post on my computer. This was great and to the point.

I just love you!! WOW. I just discovered your blog and I love it. You are joyous to listen to, watch, and read about! Anyone who gets to know you personally is certainly blessed. I appreciate who you are; thank you for being such an information seeker/sharer. I loved the info about the car. I learned so much that will be of much benefit to me. Also, about the nail polishes, try buying a Sally Hansen (or any other brand) Nail hardener and apply it as a base coat ( one coat is just fine) before ever applying your nail polish. This should help since you mentioned that the health of your nails was better before polishing them. Hope it helps! Love, Peace, and Many Blessings!!

This was an excellent post! Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this subject, I learned something new!

Hi,I admire what you have done here. Buying a car from a local distributor and is an excellent option for many people who want to save money and want to spend wisely. There are many factors to take into account and there are several approaches you can find used cars with ease, such as local retailers, distributors, online retailers and sites.Thanks for your nice post.


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This information is great and COMPLETELY true. I did about half of what you recommended when buying my first car, and I thought I was being smart and still felt ripped off at the end. Well that's because I was. But I was able to get my car refinananced later on so it's good now. But in reading your other recommendations, I know they're right on the money. I wish I did all of what you said, but that's ok because I'll make sure my sisters don't get scammed when buying their first cars.

Thanks Whitney!

I needed this about a month ago when I bought my first "my-name-on-the-title" car. I don't feel like I was ripped off but maybe I could have come out even better.

These are some very useful tips! I am car shopping myself, and I have been thinking on what I want to go with during this past week. I agree that you should always know what you want before doing any negotiating whatsoever. Take a look around the dealership in person or on their website to see what type of deals they have and what their inventory is. I have been looking at some sign and drive lease deals in NJ and I went to that website and then saw some in person. Leasing a car is the best option for me because you can save money on your car payments, and you are able to get a brand new car after your lease is up.

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