Should You Buy a Used Car Right Now? An In-Depth Guide for 2023


Buying a used car can be daunting, especially in today’s market. Prices are up across the board, and inventory is limited. However, with some research and patience, you can still find a great used car at a reasonable price. This guide will walk you through everything you need to consider when shopping for a used vehicle in 2023.

Determine Your Budget

The first step is deciding how much you can realistically afford to spend. Be sure to factor in not just the purchase price, but also insurance, registration fees, repairs and maintenance. Get pre-approved for financing if needed. Having a set budget will help narrow your search and avoid impulsive overspending.

Consider Total Costs

Don’t forget to consider additional costs like sales tax, title transfer fees, registration expenses, and maybe warranty or prep fees. Insurance, gas, repairs and regular maintenance like oil changes should also be part of your budget.

Get Pre-Approved Financing

If you need to finance, get pre-approved through your bank or credit union before heading to the dealer. This will give you bargaining power and help you avoid potentially predatory lending. Make sure the monthly payment fits your budget.

Research Prices and Values

With used car prices at record highs, doing your research on fair market values is crucial before making an offer.

Check Local Listing Prices

Search local classifieds and dealer websites to gauge pricing in your area on the make and model you want. This will give you a good sense of the current market.

Use Vehicle History Reports

Pay for a vehicle history report like Carfax or Autocheck to see past owners, accidents, mileage, and title issues. This will help you avoid buying a “lemon.”

Compare Values on Edmunds or Kelly Blue Book

These sites give estimates for how much used vehicles are worth based on factors like mileage, condition, accident history and location. This will help inform negotiations.

Search Inventory and Test Drive

Once you’re clear on pricing and budget, start searching local inventory online and through dealers. Take any promising candidates for a test drive.

Cast a Wide Net in Your Search

Look at both dealership and private party listings and be open to different makes/models that fit your needs. More options increase your chance of finding a great car at a fair price.

Schedule Test Drives Strategically

Test drive your top choices all in the same day if possible. This will allow you to more easily compare factors like comfort, performance, noise, etc. Bring someone along for a second opinion.

Inspect Thoroughly

When test driving, keep an eye out for any issues or warning signs. Specifically look at tires, brakes, alignment, and all technology. Don’t ignore any red flags.

Negotiate and Purchase from a Reputable Seller

You found the perfect car. Now it’s time to make an offer and seal the deal. Be prepared to negotiate to get the best bang for your buck.

Have Financing Lined Up

Securing financing in advance provides you with both leverage and a range of options. Dealers make money on financing, so cash buyers have an advantage.

Know the Negotiation Range

Use your pricing research to have a target price in mind. Offer on the lower end of the range, being willing to negotiate up some. Reference competitive listings.

Check Service History

Ask to see maintenance records and receipts. This can give you peace of mind that the car was properly cared for. Make sure major issues were addressed.

Buy from a Trusted Source

Whether you choose a dealer or private seller, make sure they have a solid reputation. A car buying service that vets and certifies its vehicles can provide added peace of mind.


While the current market poses some challenges, you can still get a great used car at a fair price by following these tips. Do your research, stick to your budget, test drive strategically, negotiate firmly but fairly, and buy from a reputable source. Stay patient and persistent, and you’ll drive away happy. Happy used car hunting!

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