Earlier this year, I purchased a Certified Used 2007 Honda Accord and just wanted to share some tips and resources I used to get a fair price on a used car.

First things first, I’ll admit I am not a car guy. Sure I’ve changed my own oil a few times and replaced the rear brake lights, but that’s pretty much it. But even though I’m not a DIY car guy, I do like to save money. If you’re buying a used car, here are a few tips and resources that will help you get a fair price.

Just like the quality of wine or sports teams vary from year to year, so do cars. Check out CarComplaints to see what car owners are complaining about. This was actually one of the considerations of why I chose a 2007 Accord vs. a 2008. The 2007 listed only 30 complaints about its brakes while the 2008 had over 1,000 complaints.

Used 2007 Honda Accord EXL V6 Sedan

Used 2007 Honda Accord EXL V6 Sedan

Dealership websites, Craigslist, and AutoTrader
This is a no brainer, but checking Craigslist and AutoTrader is a good way just to get an initial sense of what sellers (private and dealers) are offering their cars for. Then check out dealership websites in your area to see their inventory. Keep in mind the websites sometimes don’t have all the cars on the site. Some of the cars might already be sold so check in advance before driving down there.

CarGurus is a great resource because the site analyzes over 2,000,000 daily listings for you and gives you an idea of how competitive the price offered is. The site navigation is clean and the format provides all the necessary information for you to make an informed decision.

Kelly Blue Book
Kelly Blue Book has been around for a while is one of the most trusted websites to get accurate values on used cars. Their CPO or certified pre-owned section also provides a lot of data and reviews for you to compare.

Edmunds is similar to KBB, but also offers a few other goodies.

  • True Market Value – Besides the standard aggregated listings, Edmunds gives the TMV or True Market Value of the vehicle. They get this value by factoring in actual dealership sales across the United States, dealer inventory levels, local market sales conditions, economic trends like rising gas prices, and also unpublished incentives.
  • True Cost of Ownership – The Edmunds TCO This is a great way to see an estimate of how much it will cost to own the car over a 5-year period. Edmunds takes into consideration depreciation, taxes and fees, fuel, maintenance, repairs, financing, and insurance costs. If you can’t decide between two cars, this data can really help with the final decision.
  • Auto Loan Calculator – The auto loan calculator helps you see an estimate of what the total loan amount will be and also your monthly payments (taxes included). It’s a great resource for buying a car because you don’t have a sales person looking over your shoulder and plus you can play with the numbers to see what’s right for you. And if you want to go the other way and first see how much car you can afford based on monthly payments, Edmunds has the how much car can I afford app.

Car Forums
Check some of the popular car forums on the Internet to see what current owners have to say about their own cars. It may take a little digging, but often times you’ll find all sorts of helpful stories that provide insight to that particular car. Car Forums List provides a good place to start, but there are lots more.

CNET Car Reviews
The CNET car reviews provide comprehensive reviews balanced with good video of the car in action. They also pay special attention to any technology advances in the vehicle.

Check the dealership and main manufacturer website for special APR financing on certified cars. There was a 1.5% difference between what the dealership offered as opposed to what American Honda Financial offered.

Negotiating the Price of a Used Car
Probably the last place you want to negotiate a car price is at the dealership. They are pros at this and almost always you will be fighting a losing battle. Even if you are informed and have your price in mind, the dealerships wins most of the time. The best resource is old school “email”. Email the Internet Manager to negotiate a better price. It is far less confrontational and since they usually get paid differently than floor sales people, you can get usually work out a better price.

CarFax and AutoCheck
Once you have found the exact car and have test driven it, it’s essential to view its automotive history. CarFax and AutoCheck are the two best sources for access to detailed history reports. They use the VIN (vehicle identification number) to pull data from their national database. Nowadays many car dealerships include this information for you to see already, but not all. Both sites charge a one-time or monthly fee to get the data. I found AutoCheck to be very helpful since it showed a couple things that didn’t come up in the CarFax. The one-time check didn’t make much sense for me so I bought the monthly pass since I was checking multiple cars.

iPhone Apps
The first couple times I went to the dealership and went to the negotiating table, I wasn’t able to run some numbers. This is because I didn’t have my laptop in front of me. Instead I used a handy iPhone App to help me do the calculations. There are a bunch of free apps which help you calculate the car loan. Just search under auto calculators.

Auto Insurance Quotes
If you’re still deciding between a few makes and models, it helps to get auto insurance rate quotes from a few sources. You could try Progressive or Geico or your existing insurance provider, but you might be surprised just how much variance there is between each particular make and model.

If you have other tips or resources for buying a used car, add them in the comments section.


3 Responses to “Top Used Car Buying Tips and Resources”

  1. MB on January 21st, 2011 11:38 pm

    Obviously you’re not a car guy, but there are other factors to consider when purchasing a car than reliability and resale value. A car is a style statement, and I have to say that an older Accord is like wearing the Levis they sell at Wal-Mart rather than investing in some 514s. It kinda shows you just don’t care. For the same money, you could get a Mazda6 of better vintage, with most of the reliability, that would actually say something about you more than, “This is just an appliance for me.”

  2. Anthony on January 22nd, 2011 1:04 pm

    Thanks for your input, but to each his own. I actually wear 514′s so I do care about style. I’ve seen the Mazda6, but it’s not me. The Accord V6 is superior in fit, finish, and design to me.

  3. James on September 20th, 2011 1:22 pm

    Edmunds.com and http://www.truecar.com are great places to do price research.

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