used car buying guide
Find a Used Car at CarsDirect

Used Car HOME

Used Car Sources

If you want to buy a new car, you have only one source: a franchised, new car dealership. If you want to buy a used car, you have a much wider range of choices. The primary sources of buying used cars are: New Car Dealerships, Used Car Dealerships, Used Car "Superstores", Private Owners, and Auctions. Each will have its own advantages and disadvantages in price, convenience, and generally, in the quality of the used cars that they sell. Unless you have specific needs, it is probably a good idea to consider buying a used car from any of the available sources. Not only will this widen your field of choice, it will also make it easier to compare prices, financing and warranties.

The Internet has done much to simplify the process of searching for an acceptable used car. With access to literally thousands of available vehicles, online sources take many of the headaches out of the process. One of the largest (and most familiar) sources for locating a used car are is

New Car Dealerships

If variety is important to you, it is here that you will find the most extensive selection. Since most new car buyers end up trading their vehicles to the new car dealership where they buy their car, this is one of the first places to look if you have a particular make and model in mind. Most new car dealers will keep the best examples of their trade ins and wholesale the others to used car dealers or through auctions. If you are looking for a specific type of car or truck, a source such as Car Research and Pricing areas at , with their relationships with thousands of new car dealers across the U.S., can assist you in matching up your needs with a vehicle in your area.



  • More selection, especially of the make the dealership sells new.
  • Generally, more reconditioning is done to the cars.
  • New car dealers are generally an established business.
  • If needed, access to financing, but compare!
  • May have warranty coverage available, but compare!
  • Generally higher prices when compared to used car dealers and private owners.
  • Sometimes difficult to do business with--a lot of negotiation to get an acceptable price.
  • May attempt to sell you more car than you need.

Used Car Dealerships

A second source of buying a used car is at those dealerships that deal exclusively in them. These can range from the small corner lot that has 10 or 15 cars for sale to much larger (and more established) dealerships that may stock 100 cars or more. These dealers buy their inventory from new car dealerships (generally, the cars that the new car store does not want) and at dealer-only auctions. It is important to note that, along with restaurants, used car dealerships have one of the highest business failure rates for small businesses. "Joe's Used Cars" may be "Bubba's Burgers" next month.



  • Prices will generally be less than new car dealerships.
  • Usually easier to negotiate a deal.
  • May be able to deal directly with the owner.
  • Quality will often be less than new car dealerships.
  • There may be little or no warranty coverage.
  • Less selection usually available.

 Used Car "Superstores"

The third source of buying a used car is at one of the "Used Car Superstores" that have sprung up in the last five years. These are dealerships that have huge inventories of used vehicles (more late models than older cars), sometimes stocking 400 or 500 cars or more. They acquire the majority of their inventory from large, dealer-only auctions.



  • If you are looking for a late model (a year or two old vehicle), you may likely find the widest selection here.
  • Pricing is often of the "no negotiation" variety. This may or may not be an advantage to you. Prices will almost always be higher than exclusive used car dealerships, and often are higher than new car dealerships.
  • Warranty coverage is often on par with new car dealerships, but compare!
  • The technicians that prepare and work on the cars may not be factory trained.
  • Their "best price" may be easy to beat at a new car or used car dealership.

Private Owners

When it comes to buying a used car, private owner sales are some of the most common. This is a more time consuming process, since each private owner will only have one car to sell. Note: if a "private owner" has several cars to choose from, you may be dealing with a disguised dealer. Ask to see the title or registration. If it is only a few days old, beware!



  • The price may be reasonable and in line with book values.
  • You can speak to the owner of the car, which can give you a feel for care and maintenance
  • The owner may be "taking a shot" with the price.
  • Time and convenience: to look at 10 different used cars you must make 10 appointments and drive to 10 different places
  • No warranty unless there is the balance of a factory warranty


For years, automobile auctions were limited only to licensed car dealers. Over the last ten years, we have seen the growth of "public auto auctions" where individuals have the opportunity to competitively bid on prices for used cars. The selection (and often, the quality) of vehicles will vary widely from auction to auction. Some auctions will deal in late model vehicles, others will specialize in cheaper transportation.



  • If the auction is large enough, you can see a wide variety of vehicles at one time.
  • You can compare a number of vehicles side by side.
  • Prices may be lower than dealerships or private owners.
  • Less opportunity to inspect the vehicle. Virtually no chance of getting a professional opinion.
  • Generally, all sales are final. If you make a mistake, you have to live with it.
  • There is the potential that you will get caught in a "bidding fever" and pay too much.

Preparing for Financing a Used Car

Car Clicks HOME

Why a Used Car?


Used Car Sources




 Contact Us


Online Sources for Used Cars



Back to Top