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How to Start Looking for a Used Car

How to Start Looking for a Used Car | A Red Car with "For Sale" sign in the window

Getting a good deal on a used car involves both negotiating a good price and taking steps to make sure the car is reliable. Although buying a used car is often a smart financial decision, it’s also a transaction full of potential for disaster. Many of us know someone who paid too much for a used car that fell apart soon after. In order to get that good deal, you have to know what you want first. Here are some better ways to start looking for a used car.

Before you start looking

It is a good idea to write down what you want in a used car so that you will not waste time. Otherwise, you could end up with a car you did not want at all. If you shop at a dealer, the salesperson will want to know your preferences anyway; this saves him or her valuable time. Write down requirements such as these:

Keep this list handy when you go shopping.

Where to research

A simple Google search for a phrase like “used car sites” will bring up a plethora of Websites that list used cars being sold around the country, usually at dealerships. Sites like and are common. A search on our local Central Oregon Craigslist will bring up used cars from both dealerships and individuals.

There are also sites that provide more useful information than just listings. and Consumer Reports are among the most popular.

Mid Oregon’s CUDL Autosmart, although featuring new vehicles, provides multiple tools to help you pick out what you want. It allows you to search for and build your preferred vehicle.

Compare prices

Compare prices of cars you are interested in. The Kelley Blue Book ( lists both wholesale and retail prices for used cars. This book will give you a sense of what a particular make and model is worth, on average, so that you can assess what dealers or sellers are asking. You can also go to Kelley’s Website and search for cars and get information, reviews, and car value information.

You may have heard of Carfax, a Web-based service that provides vehicle history reports on used vehicles. Many dealers now offer Carfax reports for their vehicles. You can also get them online by providing some basic information about the vehicle in question. Some services are free, and others must be purchased.

Other places to look

Oftentimes, auto mechanics will buy a used car that the previous owner decided was too expensive to fix, and offer it for sale on the lot. Many new car dealers will also sell used cars on their lots. And it doesn’t hurt to ask family or friends if they are interested in selling a vehicle. Some of them are, and they can give you a good deal (and possibly interest-free financing).

If you have a particular make in mind, check out used car dealers who do not specialize in that brand. For example, a Chrysler dealer may have some Chevys or Fords for sale. Dealers sometimes find that they can get good deals on other brands at auctions, and so they buy them for resale, often providing extra incentives to move them off their lots.


When you’ve settled on your car, check with Mid Oregon Credit Union to line up your financing and get the best rate and terms for your purchase. Visit one of our 7 Central Oregon branches, or email a loan officer to get started.

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