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How to Find a Bargain on Your Next Car


Do you think that you’ll be in the market for another car soon? Perhaps your ride is about to fall to pieces, or maybe you are just sick of it and feel like something new(er). Whatever the case may be, you obviously want to find your desired car for the cheapest price possible. So what can do you need to do to find a bargain on your next car? Here are the top 10 ways to get your car for cheap:

1) Buy Used, Not New (and don’t ever lease!) – Car values depreciate by 60% in the first four years. If you are looking for a deal on a car, you will want to scope out a used vehicle that is at least four years old.

2) Avoid the Car Dealerships – 95% of the time, the car dealership will not have the lowest price in the market, so it’s best to just avoid them entirely.

3) Search Craigslist and Other Classified Sites – Most of the time, people know what they can get for their car if they trade it in. If they decide that the amount the dealership will give them is too little, then they will likely list it on a free classifieds site like By buying a used vehicle from a private party, you are cutting out the middle man and therefore avoiding the marked up prices of the dealership.

4) Search The Back Roads – This is not the most fuel efficient way to find a car, but if you are headed somewhere and have the time, choose the back roads rather than the highway. There are still people in the country that like to sell their car the old fashioned way with their car in the front yard and a “For Sale” sign. Since fewer people know about this vehicle, the demand is much less than if it were online and the price should reflect that (especially if it’s been sitting there for a couple months).

5) Look For Something Dirty – Just like with houses, if a car is not completely cleaned up and detailed, people will not pay as much for it. But, I often use this to my advantage. I actually seek out those dirty cars that are mechanically sound, but have a few layers of sand and dirt on them – both inside and out. By looking carefully, you can still find the dents and dings (if there are any), but this should get you a reduced price because fewer people are showing up for test drives.

6) Query the Right Words – If you are looking for a car on Craigslist, there are a few keywords that I would suggest searching for to find that bargain. Of course, “Must sell” is always a popular one, but also try “under KBB”, “ASAP”, “divorce”, “reduced price”, and “trade-in value”. All of these keywords either suggest urgency with their sale or an early reduction in price.

7) Bring Cash – If you have the cash for a purchase, bring all of the money with you – either in 20’s, 50’s, or 100’s, depending on the amount of the vehicle. The idea is to have a wad of cash that you can show the seller (ideally, you may want a friend with you so you don’t get mugged on the way out). In the day and age of credit cards, hardly anyone carries cash with them anymore and it will just make it all that much more enticing for the seller to say yes.

8) Be Nice – This tip seems trivial, but it’s absolutely true with selling and buying. If you are a grump, nobody will want to give you a deal on a car. But, if you are genuinely nice and cordial, you might just get a better deal!

9) Improve Your Negotiation Skills – This could be an entire post on it’s own, but in general you need to learn how to ask the appropriate questions to get them to drop their asking price, practice being silent (because it will encourage them to talk themselves down on their own price), and be willing to walk away if the price isn’t low enough for you.

10) Look Often – Deals don’t just hang around and wait for you to mosey on over. If you want a deal, you are going to have to be online almost every day looking for that car of your dreams. Once you find the car you’ve been looking for at the right price, then you have to be willing to drop everything in order to see it and make the purchase.

What do you think of these suggestions? Would you add any?



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Another important point is to take your time. If the offer doesn’t fit your budget, just wait, others will pop-up.

    • Good point JP. Excellent deals don’t typically present themselves right away. You’ve got to be willing to wait.

  2. These are good tips, and I usually agree w/ #2, but we got a good deal on our Prius a few years back at a dealership because we walked in with a printout from a craigslist ad of a similar car for $3,500 less. The salesperson asked us the golden question, “What would it take for you to walk away with this car today?” and we gave him our price. It worked! (It probably helped that it was the year of the Toyota recalls and they had 6 Priuses [Prii?] on the lot!)

    • I actually found my latest deal at a dealership too, but it is very rare and would not be my first place to look. Thanks for the comment Rebecca!

  3. I would typically buy used, but our last purchase was a Toyota Prius. They have a battery pack with limited life. We found that the extra cost for a new Prius over a reasonable used one was about the cost of a new battery pack. We decided to go new.

    • Makes sense Bryce. I can tell you’ve done your homework. I have thought about a Prius purchase, but I heard the maintenance costs on them are obscene. What is your experience with it?

  4. Great tips, I was just thinking about purchasing a used car and didn’t know how to go about it. Now I have a blueprint of what to do. Thanks

    • Glad I could help Karin! Email me if you have any other questions!

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