How to Find the Best Deals on Used Vehicles at Dealerships

How to Find the Best Deals on Used Vehicles at Dealerships

Dealerships make their money in three areas: sales, service, and financing. When a buyer focuses on a monthly payment, the dealership can easily manipulate other variables to get that number where they want it.

To give yourself a leg up, determine your budget and get pre-approved financing. This will set you up for negotiations by giving the dealership a clear picture of your finances.

Know What You Want

If you’re a savvy used car shopper, you can save time and money by shopping for vehicles at dealerships. They can be one-stop shops for comparing and testing vehicles, purchasing, and finalizing deals. They can also have more variety than private sellers or online marketplaces.

Dealerships can also sell certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles, often lease-returns with low mileage and warranties. They may also offer a variety of add-ons, such as gap insurance and VIN etching, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Knowing what you want can help you narrow your search and give you leverage during negotiations. Refrain from sharing your target price with the salesperson, as this will weaken your negotiating power. Instead, set a budget in advance and stick to it. Be sure to include money for an inspection and repairs, as well. A prequalified or pre-approved loan can also be a vital bargaining tool, as it shows the dealer you’re serious about making a purchase.

Be Flexible

The best way to save money on a used car is by being flexible regarding the make, model, and trim level you want. You may have to settle for a less popular vehicle that doesn’t command the same price increases as popular models, or you might find a better deal by buying a different trim or color.

You can also improve your savings by being flexible with the timing of your purchase. The end of the year in November and December is usually a good time to buy because dealers are dealing with a large volume of trade-ins and trying to clear space on their lots for newer models coming in 2023. For additional information, go to

Be sure to secure your financing outside of the dealership to avoid being pressured into a deal you can’t afford or may not be able to get credit for. Many lenders have competitive rates and are ready to compete with the dealerships, which can help you keep your purchase within your budget.

Know Your Limits

The car-buying process can be emotionally charged. Some dealers will try to exploit shoppers eager for a new ride, especially when they have an immediate need.

One of the best ways to avoid this is by doing your homework and staying prepared. Using a resource to find out what your vehicle is worth is essential, and you should be ready to walk away if the dealer doesn’t honor its value.

Also, you should know your credit score before heading into the dealership. Getting pre-approved for financing before walking in can help you keep your negotiating leverage.

Additionally, it’s smart to research if any used vehicle sales or special deals are happening. 

Be Prepared to Negotiate

You’ll likely have to negotiate the price once you find a vehicle that meets your needs. This may be face-to-face in the showroom or through an online quote request. Having a few critical points prepared is a good idea.

Start low, but make an enticing offer. The dealer might counter, and if they do, ask them to explain why the numbers are so different. Also, ask for the “out-the-door” price, including all fees and taxes. It’s easy to get confused, so repeat the numbers and write them down if necessary.