Tips when Buying a used car



I am getting ready to shop this spring for a used Subaru (not too used)Forester or Outback. Single woman- you get the pic- any suggestions? What can/should I ask- how much can I negotiate- is the used car business feeling the economic pinch also?

Should I ask a male friend to come with me or go it alone? How can I get the BEST deal out there? I sense purchasing from a legitimate used car business is better than a private sale…?


Your guess is both right and wrong. A good private deal will beat any dealer, but you can get stuck with a real turkey of a car that way, also. On the other hand, dealers selling used cars are notorious for playing fast and loose with their customers.

I would say you are more likely to get a good deal with a private individual, but you need to take the car for a PRE-PURCHASE inspection at a reliable mechanic. It will cost you some money to have that done, but could save you a bundle long term. I would highly recommend the pre-purchase inspection even for a car from a dealer, and walk away from any person or dealer who won’t allow it.


I agree, but if you consider yourself a novice, the first thing you need to do is ask as informed volunteer, to accompany and advise you, not necessarily a male friend who may not know enough. Being a male does nothing to guarantee expertise.
I would advise shopping at dealers with good reputations (not easy I know to discern) even though the prices are higher. Getting a decent car you want is one part of the battle, getting for the price your want is another. Never fall in love( or like ) with a car and be willing to walk at any time.
Best of luck…


Use search and find forums for Subaru and learn as much as possible.What year models are the best and what troubles crop up.


There’s some good info at the Edmunds website. The “Confessions of a Car Salesman” is a good place to start.

Beware of bait and switch tactics. I test drove an untitled 2008 G6 that was advertised with no money down and low payments. As soon as the test drive was over the salesman offered to sell me another G6 that had a lot more miles at a “good” price. Two hours later when I finally got a straight answer, both cars were priced 3 or 4k more than I expected. When I left, the window sticker advertising the low monthly payments had been removed from the 08 G6. I won’t be returning to that dealership.

I stopped by the small dealer I bought my 2000 Blazer in 03 from a few days later. One of the owners recognized me and we had a nice talk about a possible replacement for the Blazer. No pressure and no hassle. They will probably get my business when the time comes.

A few suggestions.

  1. Get a separate selling price and trade-in price. Don’t let the dealer discuss monthly payments.

  2. Get a pre-approved loan from a Credit Union or bank.

  3. Don’t fall in love with a particular car, there are plenty more out there. Be ready to walk away.

  4. Don’t sign anything, don’t agree to take the car home for the night. The salesman at the first dealership was upset when I told him I wasn’t going to buy a car that night.

  5. Even if you find a deal on a car, sleep on it before you make your decision. What may seem like a good deal after a few hours of negotiation may not be such a good deal a few hours later or the next day.

  6. Bringing along somebody is a good idea for mutual support.

  7. If possible have a trusted mechanic check out the vehicle. If the dealer is uncomfortable with it, walk away.

Ed B.


You need to know as much as you an about the cars you are looking for. Consumer Reports can tell you what systems on the Subaru you are interested in are problematic. MSN Autos has similar information and if there is a problem system, will tell you what might go wrong and how much it will cost to fix. is a great place to get cost information. You input your zip code, pick the car you want (including options) and they will tell you what the average price is in your area.

You can look at dealer inventory on line. Go to the Subaru USA web site and look up dealers in your area. They will have a used inventory and asking prices. You take the mileage and options for the car you like to Edmunds and see if the price is good. You should also read up on Subarus at, Edmunds, and MSN Autos to see what their reviewers say about the year/model you want.

Is it a lot of work? Sure. But the reward is a good, solid car you like at an excellent price. I’ve been doing it for years, and have gotten several excellent deals. When I decide to buy a car, I own the negotiations. It’s my money, and they do it my way or they don’t get the business. And if I can do it, you can too. There’s nothing mystical about doing your homework.


Ask this question of a private seller: If this is such a good used car then why are you selling it? Dealers send the stuff they don’t want on their lot to the regional car auction where used car dealers buy them for resale.

You have not stated how much you want to spend. If you want a fairly recent model then you might want to consider instead a brand new front wheel drive compact.

Keep in mind that Subaru cars have had their problems; I have seen plenty of Subaru related posts here on Car Talk, head gasket failures, drive train tire wear sensitivity and more. You might want to follow Car Talk for a while to see who has problems. Another site to get some info is

If you can come close to handling it, buy new in a simpler car rather than used with more features. With new, not only do you get a long term guarantee, you get the pleasure of owning a car from the beginning of its existence.


Fun Read at Edmunds, though I would add get the number to be financed and shop around, including dealer low rate offers for the $ per month comparison.


with or without somebody, dont talk unless you have a question about the car. if they ask your name, sure, tell them. and dont show excitement. if you dont talk, he will, and then the price will have already started creeping down in his head.


Never pay more than book (Kelley Blue Book or NADA) price, and it should be somewhat under book.
Have a mechanic you trust inspect it before buying.
Don’t let them talk you into the extended warranty. Usually the cost far exceeds it’s worth.




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