The best places to buy used cars in America

You’ve decided you need to replace your current vehicle, but you can’t afford to buy a new car. Or you know that the used vehicle market allows you to get a better deal, if you find the right car. Don’t pull out the classified section of the newspaper or the digital equivalent. Here are the best places to buy used cars in America.


Don’t buy a used car at a new car dealership. While they may have used cars, the selection will be limited. They will consist of trade-ins by people who were tired of their current car (raising questions regarding quality and reliability). There will also be a few lease returns, and these cars tend to be relatively new but heavily used. Some of the “used cars” at new car dealerships will be the vehicles from the last model year and other undesirable cars.

In contrast, a used car dealership has a large number of used cars for sale. They will accept some trade-ins, but they’ll also take lease returns and used cars from new car dealers. This means that you’ll find cars from nearly new to heavily used. You can get cars at all price points and a wide range of models. 


For the vehicle owner, a private party sale is an obvious choice if you have the time for it. You’ll get more money for the vehicle. For the car buyer, there are risks and rewards. You may get a great deal from a motivated seller, such as the person joining the military or moving cross country and who needs to get rid of the car right now.

You might get a discount for paying cash versus a check or credit card, but you run the risk of being robbed by the supposed seller. You need to take any car to a mechanic to get it checked out, and you might need multiple mechanic visits to get to a good used car. With private party sales, you’re bound to meet people on their schedule.

Yet private party sales have their benefits. You can find them on online discussion groups and dedicated forums. This is a life-saver if you want to buy a car with unusual modifications, whether it is a sweet lowrider truck or a vehicle turned into a race car. You’re more likely to be able to negotiate for additional hardware and supplies like the locked tool box in the back of the truck or the trailer next to the vehicle.

We’d recommend staying away from general online marketplaces, since it is easier for scammers to publish ads there. If someone has posted multiple car ads, this is a major red flag. 


A bank or credit union that extends car loans can repossess the vehicle if the owner doesn’t make the payments. They won’t have a very large selection, but they will mark down such vehicles simply to get rid of them. They’ll eventually sell them at auction at a deep discount to car lots. 

We don’t recommend buying cars from title loan companies. The people who use such lending services tend to be very poor and thus aren’t able to take good care of their vehicles. That’s aside from the potential problems with the car title. You might buy a car from the title loan place but not have the right to own it, because the original lender has first dibs. Or you’ll be hit with a mechanic lien you didn’t know about. 

Photo Credit: Genesis

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