How to Buy a Used Car

Purchasing a used car doesn’t have to be like walking through a minefield. It can be challenging, but if you do your research and due diligence, you can feel confident that you’re making a good purchase. In fact, getting a new-to-you car is exciting! It’s important to have an expert look at the car before you buy it, and always read the fine print on your contract before signing it.

EditSample Forms and Payment Calculator
WH.shared.addScrollLoadItem(‘5c4535b2089ed’)Sample Used Car Sale ContractWH.shared.addScrollLoadItem(‘5c4535b208df1’)Sample Bill of Sale Disclosure AddendumWH.shared.addScrollLoadItem(‘5c4535b209200’)Sample Monthly Car Cost Calculator
EditNarrowing Your Choices
Decide on your budget. Whether you’re paying cash or taking out a loan, you need to know the maximum you’re willing to spend on a car. Consider how much cash you have available to devote to a car or use an online calculator to figure out what kind of monthly payment you can make.[1]
When figuring out a monthly budget, try not to spend more than 20% of your income on a car payment.[2]

Choose the most important features for your driving needs. If you drive a lot, you may need a car with good gas mileage. If you need to haul things around, you may need a trunk or an SUV with the capacity to fold down seats.[3]
List the things you need in a car, such as good gas mileage, high passenger capacity, and/or hauling space. Create another list of things you like, such as body style, color, etc. Use both of them to narrow down your model choices so you won’t be distracted by a pretty car that doesn’t fit your needs.[4]
For good gas mileage, look for a car that gets 25 mpg or better. How much hauling space you need depends on what you plan to haul. For instance, if you own a small business, make sure to pick a car that will hold your equipment.

Look into insurance and repair costs. More expensive cars will have higher insurance rates. Plus, some cars are more costly to repair than other cars. Factor those costs into your decision when buying a car.[5]
You can check with your car insurance company to compare rates on different types of cars.

Look online for comparisons of repair costs on car comparison websites. Some cars are more costly to repair because their parts are more expensive and/or more difficult to find. Plus, the more add-ons a car has, the more likely you are to have something break down.

Get pre-approved for financing if possible. One easy way to figure out the max you can spend is to apply for a car loan. You can get pre-approved for an amount through your bank, and then you have a max amount.
To apply for a loan, go online to your bank’s website to fill out an application. You can also call into most banks to get financing.

Some banks may refuse to finance an older used car. Others may not finance one you buy from an owner. However, banks or credit unions typically offer lower interest rates than dealerships, so it’s a good idea to try.

Don’t rule out the dealership just because your bank is willing to finance your used car purchase. By letting the dealership know the interest rate you have negotiated with the bank, you may get a lower offer from the dealership. Of course, you can only finance through the dealership if you buy your car through them.

Check the safety ratings on the cars you’re interested in. You want to be safe, of course, particularly if you’re driving other people around. The government gives safety ratings to all vehicles, which you can look up on the models you’re interested in.[6]
Check your models at

Compare and learn the price ranges for the models you like. Once you decide on a couple of models you’re interested in, check into the typical price ranges for those models. You can see which ones are in your budget, as well as use the information to cut a deal when you go car shopping.[7]
Visit sites that let you look up and/or compare the prices of cars, so you can determine which ones are more expensive. For instance, try sites like or

Look at comparable cars across brands. If you like a small sedan, don’t just look at a Honda Accord or Civic. Check out other brands, too, such as Kia and Ford. You may find a car you like just as well at a lower price point.[8]
Don’t forget to factor in things like dependability ratings and the availability of parts.

EditFinding a Used Car
Check out local dealerships. You’ll find dealerships devoted completely to used cars. New car dealerships also usually have a used-car section. Browse a dealership that carries the type of vehicle you’re looking for. Large dealerships are typically dedicated to one make of car, so you can look that type of car up online to find a dealership in your area.[9]
For smaller dealerships, call ahead to see if they carry the type of car you’re looking for.

One nice thing about buying from well-known dealerships is they sometimes offer a used-car certification. That means they’ve fixed everything that’s wrong with the car, so you know you’re not getting a lemon. On the other hand, these pre-certified cars tend to be more expensive than other used cars.

Look at online classifieds for cars for sale by owner. Check sites like Craigslist and Facebook marketplace to find listings for used cars. You can browse through these sites or search for particular models.[10]
You can also ask your friends and family if they know of anyone selling a car. You may get a deal, and you at least have a character reference from your friend or family member.

You do have to be more careful when buying from another person. You definitely want to have the car checked by a mechanic, and you should be careful bringing cash to a transaction. On the other hand, you may get a better deal, as the owner doesn’t have the overhead costs of a dealership.

Find cars on sites dedicated to selling used cars. These sites focus on used cars only, so you don’t have to dig through other items for sale. Plus, you can narrow down your search based on the criteria you’ve set for yourself, such as the make, model, year, and so on.[11]
Some of the main sites are AutoTrader, AutoList, and CarMax.

EditDeciding on a Car
Take the cars for a test drive. When you find a car you like, it’s important that you drive it. It’s a way to make sure it runs well, but you can also see if you like the way it drives. Be sure to give it a thorough test drive, going on both local streets and the highway.[12]
Also, try parking and turning to check the car’s maneuverability.

Have the car checked by a mechanic. Even if the car is certified by the dealership, it’s still a good idea to have a trusted mechanic look at it. They can tell you if it has anything majorly wrong with it or if anything is likely to go out soon. You can typically schedule a mechanic to look at the car when you’re not there if you need to. Just call and make an appointment.[13]
If you don’t have a mechanic you trust, ask your friends if they know of one. A diagnostic mechanic is the best option.

You can also find mechanics online under “automotive diagnostic mechanic.” Check out reviews to find a good one. A mechanic will likely charge you $100 USD or so to check out the car.

If the car needs repairs and you still want to buy it, ask the mechanic to write out a report with an estimate for the repairs. Have them include the VIN, make, and model. Then, you can use that report to get a lower price on the car.

Look for red flags on the title. The title can tell you a lot about the car, and if you see certain red flags, you may want to walk away from it. For instance, if the mileage on the title doesn’t match the odometer, the seller may be trying to cheat you; the title may say “mileage unknown” or “mileage exceeds mechanical limits.” While high mileage may not be a deal breaker, you do want to know about it ahead of time.[14]
Other red flags are title brands, usually at the top of the title. These brands can be things like “flood vehicle,” “salvage,” or “rebuilt salvage.” Make sure you understand what the terms mean in your state before buying the vehicle. Typically, a flood vehicle has been in a flood. A salvage vehicle is one that has been deemed totaled by an insurance company, and “rebuilt” salvage can just mean parts have been replaced. It may not even run.

Also, make sure the description and VIN match your car. If they don’t match, then that title doesn’t belong to the car you’re looking at, most likely.

If the owner won’t let you see the title, that’s a bad sign.

Run a title check on your car. Even if you’ve seen the title, it’s still a good idea to run a title check on it. You’ll need the VIN to run the title.[15] View a list of companies approved by the U.S. Department of Justice for title checking here:
A title check will give you information on title brands and liens.

Use a vehicle history site to check the VIN. Ask for the VIN from the seller, and then put the VIN into a site that sells car histories. A history should tell you any major repairs, as well as any crashes the car has been in.[16]
If the seller won’t give you the VIN, that’s a good sign you should walk away from the car.

You can try sites like or

EditMaking a Purchase
Remember to mentally add in the extra costs and fees to the purchase price. The purchase price isn’t all you’ll pay. You’ll also need to pay the title, registration, and taxes. They can add up to about 10% of the price.[17]
You can look up some of these costs on your state’s websites. Use those estimates to calculate how much they will add to the price of the car.

Negotiate the price. Once you’ve picked out a car you’d like to buy, use the research you’ve done to get a better deal. For instance, if you look at the history and find it’s been in an accident, you may be able to get a lower price. Always be ready to walk away from the car if you can’t get the deal you want.[18]
If you’re not sure about what the price should be, use websites that estimate the fair market value for a vehicle to help determine how much you should pay, such as

Similarly, use what you know about the average price for the make and model to negotiate a better deal.

Ask for a return policy in writing. While some states require dealers to give you a 3-day return period, others do not. It’s always best to ask what a dealership’s policy is. Getting it in writing will help you enforce it later.[19]
The dealer might refer to it as a “cooling off period” or a “no-questions ask return policy.”

If you’re getting the car from the owner, you could write out a short contract that says you can return the car within 3 days. Both of you should sign it, and you may even want to get it notarized. However, always talk to a lawyer about legal advice.

Discuss the warranty with the dealer or seller. Your dealer may offer one of a variety of different warranties, so you need to make sure you know what you’re getting. Often, the dealer may offer the car “As Is,” which means you won’t get a dealership warranty, though you may still ask the dealer to fix certain problems as a condition of the sale.[20]
Some state laws allow for “implied warranties,” meaning that if the car doesn’t meet a reasonable expectation of quality, the dealer will need to fix it. You can look up your state’s laws on the state’s websites. A specific type of implied warranty is an implied warranty of merchantability, which means the car does what the dealer says it will do, such as run.

A full warranty specifically covers the following terms:
Warranty service is covered for free.

You can get a replacement or refund if the dealer isn’t able to fix the problem after a few tries.

The car is covered for anyone who owns the vehicle.

To get warranty service, you just tell the dealer it needs to be done.

The implied warranty doesn’t have a time limit.

Limited warranties would not meet all these conditions. Both full and limited warranties may not cover the whole car.

Check any manufacturer’s warranties that may still apply to the car by calling into the manufacturer with the VIN. You will need to get this information from the dealer or the seller.

Read the contract and buyer’s guide thoroughly. Before you sign anything, you need to go over it. Make sure you know what everything means and that it matches what you’ve been told by the dealership. Also, ensure that the dealer hasn’t left something blank that they can fill in later.[21]
The buyer’s guide may include a description of your warranty.

Go over the financing if you’re using a dealer’s financing. You want to know what you’re expected to pay and when. Also, check the interest rate against the average interest rate to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Look up interest rates online if you’re not sure about the one you’re being offered.[22]
If you don’t like the financing offered, see if you can go through your bank, your credit union, or another bank.

Sign and finalize your contract before leaving. While it’s tempting to take a verbal agreement and leave the dealership, it can come back to bite you. Always finalize everything if you’re leaving with the car.[23]
Some shady dealers may say you’re getting a certain monthly payment that needs to be approved by a manager. If you leave a car to trade-in on this verbal agreement, you may be asked to pay a much higher payment later, and your other car may already have been sold.

Complete transfer of ownership with the dealer or seller. The seller must transfer ownership by filling in the title transfer certificate and signing a bill of sale. As the buyer, you must sign the bill of sale, pay the sales tax, and register and title the car with your state.[24]
If the seller still owes money on the car, write your check to the lender. They’ll send the title to the seller, who can then transfer it to you.[25]

If you are buying a vehicle from a private seller, check to be sure any associated lien on the vehicle has been paid off by the seller.

If you do not feel comfortable negotiating prices or checking used cars for mechanical issues, consider using a car buying service.

When negotiating, remember a lower price is not the only benefit you can request. Try asking for warranties, service contracts, or even free floor mats.

EditRelated wikiHows
Buy Car Insurance for a Used Car

Buy a Classic Car

Avoid Being Carjacked

Get Rid of Tobacco Odors in Cars

Fix Your Car’s Air Conditioner

Buy or Lease a Car when You Have Bad Credit

Price Used Cars

Not Get Scammed on Craigslist when Buying a Used Car

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Today in History for 20th January 2019

Historical Events

1840 – Dutch King Willem II crowned
1929 – 1st feature talking motion picture taken outdoors, “In Old Arizona”
1954 – The National Negro Network is established with 40 charter member radio stations.
1961 – The Democrat J.F. Kennedy is inaugurated as President of the United States, the youngest ever sworn in
1983 – American gangster Roy DeMeo is found murdered in his car trunk after disappearing a few days earlier
2008 – “Breaking Bad”, created by Vince Gilligan and starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul premieres on AMC

More Historical Events »

Famous Birthdays

1716 – Jean-Jacques Barthélemy, French writer and numismatist (d. 1795)
1781 – Joseph Hormayr Freiherr zu Hortenburg, Austrian politician (d. 1848)
1877 – Ruth St Denis, ballerina (Dances of the 5 Senses), born in Newark, New Jersey
1896 – Rolfe Sedan, American actor (Young Frankenstein, Ninotchka, George Burns Show), born in NYC, New York (d. 1982)
1940 – Jorge Peixinho, composer
1959 – Lea Antonoplis, West Covina Cat, tennis star

More Famous Birthdays »

Famous Deaths

1779 – David Garrick, English actor, producer and writer (Aboan-Oroonoko), dies at 61
1890 – Franz Paul Lachner, German composer, dies at 86
1983 – Garrincha, Brazilian footballer (b. 1933)
1996 – Peter Stadlen, pianist/critic, dies at 85
2005 – Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, Polish journalist, writer, and politician (b. 1913)
2014 – Claudio Abbado, Italian composer and conductor (London Symph-1982), dies at 80

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How to Clean a Daith Piercing

A daith piercing passes through the ear’s innermost cartilage fold, and is an interesting form of body art. Like other cartilage piercings, it’s particularly prone to infection. However, taking good care of your new daith piercing can help ensure it heals properly. Clean it twice a day with saline solution, and don’t touch the area except when you’re cleaning it. Healing can take 6 months. During that time, leave the earring in place, and avoid exposing the area to sources of infection.

EditCleaning Your New Piercing Daily
Clean the piercing with saline solution twice daily. Cleaning the piercing more than twice a day can cause irritation. Use a store-bought saline solution or the cleanser your piercer provided. Alternatively, make your own saline solution by mixing 1/8 teaspoon of non-iodized salt with of warm water.[1]
Don’t clean the piercing with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as these can delay the healing process.

Wash your hands before touching your piercing. Wash up with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds before you clean the piercing. After washing your hands, dry them with a disposable paper towel.[2]
Only touch the area around the piercing when you clean it.

Soak a clean gauze pad in saline solution. Use clean, lint-free medical gauze to apply saline to your piercing. Squirt bottled saline onto the gauze pad to saturate it, or dip the pad into a cup of a homemade solution.[3]
Don’t use cotton balls or cotton wool; the fibers could get caught in the piercing.[4]

Hold the gauze pad to the piercing for 5 minutes. Keep the gauze in place to allow the saline to work its way into the piercing. Don’t move the piercing as you clean it. If there’s any crusted buildup around the piercing, allow the saline to soften it, then gently wipe it away when you’ve finished soaking.[5]
White or pale yellow buildup is normal. Don’t pick at it; just soften with the saline, then wipe it away.

Pat the area dry with a clean paper towel. Dry the area with a disposable paper towel instead of a cloth. Leaving it wet could promote bacterial growth.[6]
A cloth can harbor bacteria and snag on the piercing, so go with a paper towel.

EditKeeping Your Piercing Clean
Don’t twist or pick at the piercing while it’s healing. Playing with the earring could irritate the piercing and prevent healing. Additionally, germs from your hands could lead to infection.[7]
Remember not to pick at any crusty residue that builds up around the piercing.

It can take up to 6 months for a daith piercing to heal.

Keep hairspray, lotion, and other products away from the piercing. Do your best not to get shampoo into the piercing when you wash your hair. If you have long hair, wear it up as much as possible to keep hair products out of the piercing. Avoid using hairspray; if you do, don’t spray it near the piercing.[8]
Beauty and cosmetic products can cause irritation and block air circulation, which can interfere with the healing process.

Avoid swimming until the piercing has healed. It’s especially important to avoid submerging the piercing in pools, lakes, and hot tubs. Bacteria in these bodies of water can lead to infection.[9]
Bathtubs can also harbor bacteria, so take showers instead of baths while the piercing is healing.

If you do go swimming, cover the piercing with a wound-sealing waterproof bandage, which you can purchase at your local pharmacy.

Clean your phone and any other objects that touch your ear. Wipe your phone, earphones, and other objects that come into contact with your ear daily with sanitizing pads. Try to limit your use of earphones, and hold your phone to your other ear whenever possible.[10]
If you wear glasses, clean the parts that slip over your ears at least daily.

Try to avoid sleeping on the piercing. It’s also wise to cover your pillow with a clean tee shirt. That way, if you do sleep on the piercing, it’ll be touching a clean surface.[11]
If you can’t get comfortable in any position other than on your side, try sleeping on a neck pillow. Sleep on your side with your ear in the neck pillow’s opening to protect the piercing from pressure and friction.

Additionally, wash your bedding weekly. Dirty sheets and pillowcases can lead to infection.[12]

EditSpotting Signs of Infection
Note any worsening bleeding, pain, redness, and swelling. Some discomfort, bleeding, and swelling during the first few days is common in daith and other cartilage piercings. However, persistent or worsening symptoms could be a sign that something’s wrong.[13]
Contact your piercer or see a doctor if bleeding, swelling, or pain don’t improve within a few days after getting your ear pierced.

Check for a yellow or green foul-smelling discharge. Note that an odorless white or light yellow discharge that dries into a crusty residue isn’t pus. This is a normal part of the healing process. Pus, or foul-smelling, darker yellow or green discharge, is a sign of infection.[14]
If you see pus, carefully clean the piercing with saline, and don’t remove the earring. The ring helps allow the wound to drain.

See a doctor if you notice signs of infection. Contact your piercer, see your doctor, or head to a health clinic if your piercing is infected. Without proper treatment, infected daith piercings can lead to serious complications, such as abscesses and deformed ears.[15]
An reputable piercer can recommend a doctor or clinic experienced with treating infected cartilage piercings. Treatment may include topical or oral antibiotics. If you’re prescribed medication, take it according to your doctor’s instructions.

Daith piercings are sometimes used to manage migraines. However, there’s no scientific evidence that they actually reduce pain due to migraines or migraine frequency.[16]
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