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The idea of buying a used car can be an unpleasant one. Visions of you broken down by the side of the road or forking over huge amounts of money to repair that lemon, or the thought of dealing with pushy, smarmy salesmen who are trained to win the price negotiation game can be anxiety-provoking. But, the process does not have to be so terrible; you just need to arm yourself with some knowledge about the vehicles you are planning to purchase and the negotiation process.

Secure Financing before Shopping

If you plan on seeking a loan to buy your used car, it would behoove you to arrange financing before you begin the car shopping process for many reasons. First off, it will help you focus your car search because you know what amount of money you are already working with—no flash decisions to get that car you love but really cannot afford. Secondly, having the money all set to go will work to your advantage when it comes time to price negotiations. Any buyer who can hand pay the dealer or private seller in full that day has some great leverage.

Do Your Research

Once you have your financing in place and know what you can spend, make sure to do your homework on the cars you are interested in. Sites like NADA, Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book can all provide pricing information on every type of vehicle based on a number of factors, such as the general condition and mileage. If you are looking at cars from private sellers, it is a good idea to check Craigslist and other mediums used to advertise used cars to see what different cars are selling for in your area. Get in touch with dealers through email or the phone initially to get an idea of the selling prices of the cars you are interested in. The more knowledge you have regarding pricing of the cars you are interested in, the less likely it is you will be totally ripped off; you will also be more successful in negotiations, especially with dealers who are used to dealing with people who know bunk about cars.

History and Inspection

The car’s history is vital for determining the state of the car and will reveal any important information you need to know, such as whether it has been in an accident. Many websites, such as NADA allow you to get this; you can also get a report from CarFax. You should also request a private inspection…obviously walk away from anyone who refuses. They are either knowingly hiding something or do not know as much about the condition of the car as they claim and are worried you will find something.

Negotiation Considerations

If you are ready to purchase a vehicle but the price is not quite to your liking, you are going to have to engage in some negotiation. Again, having the money to fork over right away is to your advantage so really think about doing that if you are planning on going a different route; telling the dealer or seller that you are prepared to buy today will definitely affect how they deal with you. It is important for you to establish a low offer and the highest price you are willing to pay—make sure your low offer is realistic. Keep in mind, however, that is you are looking to buy a car that is in high demand or is a certified pre-owned vehicle, you will have less negotiating power, so if the car you want is one of these, you have to accept that you will pay more than for a typical used car.  If you are going through a dealer and are offering a trade-in, decide on those prices separately.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who has covered all things auto; visit for more information on Canadian car insurance and quote comparisons.