Step 1: Check your Buying Power and Get Pre-Approval

No matter whether you are buying a used car OR a new car –  knowing your buying power can save you a lot of time. Once you know your buying power, you can then go on to research what cars are in your price range and get the best deal for that car

How? You can visit your credit union or your bank website to look for their car loan offers and apply. But…. that will immediately result in a hard inquiry on your credit record. If you are a savvy customer like most of our customers, then you should check out your eligible auto loan offers on first. Then apply for the one that you like so that you get your Pre-Approval. See additional money saving tips in the Pro Tips section. It is ironic that some car lenders will ask you which used car you want to buy before you know what your borrowing power is – another reason to instead work with


Step 2: Look for used car inventory

Once you know your borrowing power, it is easy to then use the price filters to look for used car availability at your local dealerships and online. It is also equally important to decide which “type of car” you want to buy – SUV, Sedan, Small Car, Minivan, truck? We advise you to consider the size of your family, the type of activities you engage in and the distances you travel before deciding on this. Obviously budget also plays a role.

How?,, and are great resources to look for local used car inventory. See Pro Tips below for additional tactics

Step 3: See if there are used cars that owners are selling directly

Buying directly from the owner may not be everyone’s cup of tea, so you have to make sure you are ready to conduct extra due diligence. If you are up for it, then local classifieds and craigslist are your best sources. Make a list of vehicles that meet your criteria.

How? Craigslist and local online/print classifieds

Step 4: Check out the vehicle history

Used cars do not come with standard warranty like new cars do. And when a dealer offers warranty, most often it comes at a premium. So more often than not, buyer has to be extra vigilant in evaluating the quality of the car that they are considering. Vehicle history check is one way of reviewing the quality of the car. Watch out for rental history, collision history, salvage title among other history. Also research on manufacturer recalls on the car model and year that you are considering. Use this research to further narrow down your used vehicle shortlist

How? is the primary source of vehicle history reports. Manufacturer webistes and google search can help you with recall history. Since you will be evaluating several cars, make sure you get a membership that allows you to do more than one

Step 5: Get Price Estimate

Once you have a smaller shortlist, use price estimation tools to compare what the market price is and what the seller is asking for. It is quite common for dealers to have a mark-up (premium) compared to individual owners. Stay away from cars that are way over priced, but do not hesitate to pay a small premium for a car that is well maintained

How? is a well accepted website to look for price estimates. Also use prices of the several used cars in the market as the market price range. Prices definitely vary for the same car from one location to another location

Step 6: Mechanical Inspection

If you are willing to pay the premium for dealer warranty, then go for it. If you are not, then getting vehicle checked by your trusted mechanic is the way to go. If you are buying from the owner, then do not hesitate to ask for maintenance history i.e. Oil Change receipts and other maintenance receipts so you can tell how well the vehicle has been maintained

How? If you do not have a trusted mechanic, ask your friends and family if they have one. Stay with the mechanic during inspection and do not hesitate to ask him/her questions

Step 7: Close the deal

Almost all pre-approvals will send you the check, and all you have to do is take your down payment and that check to close the deal. Finance Managers at the dealership will try to win your loan business by offering a lower monthly payments but the catch is that it will inevitably come with a longer loan term and higher interest. Most dealers mark up car loans by an average 2%

Congratulations on reading this and taking the first step towards your car purchase. See our Pro Tips below for additional money saving tactics.

Pro Tips

With CreditSnap, you choose your best offer from a wide selection. Our customers save anything between $60 to $200 on their monthly car payments*

With CreditSnap, you avoid a hard inquiry until you select your best offer

And the best part – with CreditSnap, rest assured that you will not be declined**. Compare that to our competitors and banks who generally decline at least 50% of their applicants

Sometimes the local auction houses may also have good inventory (search for ‘auto auctions near me’)

Often times, credit unions may have a used car sale event to clear inventory that they have OR their affiliates have. Ask your credit union representative

While you can find good deals at rental car fleet sales, you have to be very selective and savvy in picking the right car. But be open to them though