How to Buy a Used Car Without Getting Ripped Off

When it comes to buying a car, you can get ripped off easily.

The average cost of a new car is $40,000. That means more Americans are opting to buy used cars.

And just because the typical used car costs half that of a new car won’t make getting ripped off hurt any less. Here are six tips for buying a used car without getting ripped off.

Decide on a firm budget

You should decide on a budget long before you walk onto a dealership lot. Decide on your budget and stick to it.

The average used car sells for about $21,000. And the average monthly car note is about $400. However, you must consider several other factors when establishing your budget besides the sticker price.

The older the model, the more expensive it will be to pay for repairs and source older parts.

Try not to buy a model more than a decade out of date. Also remember to include insurance, registration, fuel, and the first year of maintenance costs. These additional costs can add a few thousand and up to $10,000 to your budget.

Double-check your used car’s value

Peruse used car value directory sites to determine an approximate value. Such sites include:

Compare local auto dealerships

Look up as many used car dealerships in your area as possible. Compare their inventory vehicles and prices. Understand what is available at the dealership before you walk onto the lot.

Inspect the vehicle

If you are going to pay $20,000 to $30,000 for a used car, you should inspect it on the lot.

You can download dealership lot inspection guides online. However, you may be better off hiring a gearhead friend or local mechanic to assist you.

Insist on a test drive

Insist on test-driving any vehicle that catches your attention. Be sure to bring along someone who understands cars with you. Keep in mind that the dealer may come along for the ride.

Drive the vehicle in heavy traffic if possible to see how it handles with abrupt starts and stops. Drive and maneuver the vehicle up and down hills and on the highway.

If the car is a rehabilitated wreck, the trained ears of a mechanic or gearhead will recognize the sounds of a struggling vehicle.


Don’t let the dealer pressure you into signing a deal on the spot or buying a more expensive car. Tell them that you need more time to think about the purchase. Additionally, copy the VIN of the used car.

You can input the VIN on websites such as and other car value approximation sites to determine if the vehicle has ever been in a wreck or recalled.