Here’s how to recognize a good deal

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Despite some reports of falling used car pricesconsumers are still faced with used cars that are much more expensive than expected. In a market where inventory moves quickly and dealers rarely move on price, here’s how you can determine if you’re getting a fair deal.

In this crazy used car market, buyers need to understand that a “deal” is relative to what is available and what price range the desired vehicle falls into. Forget what you paid for a certain car a few years ago — everything is more expensive now.

You should mostly ignore the “savings” a reseller says you get. I also advise against dwelling on what a third-party pricing website like KBB or Edmunds tells you. should pay for a certain car. These sites can provide useful guidance in terms of general price ranges, but the reality is that a car is the penalty what someone is willing to pay. Just because your target car has a higher retail price than the guidelines say, doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad deal.

One of the best methods I have found over the years is to review a list of vehicles against other comparable vehicles in the same area.

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As you can see the prices are quite similar across most listings considering the mileage, but let’s compare the two listings below.

Image for article titled How to Know if You're Getting the Best Price for a Used Car

Screenshot: Autotrader

Both cars are 2019 Nissan Rogues with the Premium Package, but Millenium Chevrolet’s car has about half the mileage for just $74 more. On the surface, that makes this car a better value. However, the advertised prices do not tell the whole story. Dealers have been “playing” the pricing system online for a while, even before the inventory mess. They will advertise a competitive price in the market, only to add a bunch of incidentals that make the total price less competitive. That’s why it’s essential to get a full number from a dealer, so you can make an accurate comparison.

Of course, where this approach becomes difficult is when comparing models with different levels of equipment. This is often the case with luxury cars and vans, where you may have vehicles that are visually similar and may even be of the same “trim”, but could have substantial differences in their original MSRP. This is when having access to the vehicle’s original window sticker or build sheet comes in really handy. Brands like Volvo, Stellantis and Hyundai do a great job of incorporating these window stickers into Carfax reports. There are also third-party sites like VinAnalytics who can provide original build sheets and MSRPs for high-end vehicles like Porsche and BMW.

Besides looking at year, mileage/warranty balance, price, and equipment, another factor is distance. Casting a wide net will give you more inventory to choose from and potentially better value, but you’ll want to balance the travel/transportation costs to get this car versus buying it local.

Where a lot of buyers get frustrated is when they feel the need to get into a back and forth negotiation on a car that’s already priced appropriately for the market, and then that vehicle gets picked up by someone else. ‘other. If you’re unsure whether or not you have a competitive agreement, ask yourself this question: Can I find a car of the same or newer model year, with similar mileage and equipment, for less? If the answer is no, you have probably found your agreement and you should act quickly.

Tom McParland is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs It takes the hassle out of buying or renting a car. Do you have a question about buying a car? Send it to [email protected]

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