Research your next used car with these helpful tips.
There are so many things to consider when buying a used car, from size and style to interior tech and convenient features that make driving more comfortable. If you're wondering which vehicle to choose, you're not alone — many shoppers have this question!
As with any major purchase, it's important to do your research. To help you get started, we've compiled a list of five things to do before deciding which used car to buy.
1. Evaluate your needs
Before booking a test drive, think about how you'll use your vehicle and what you want from your ownership experience. This will help you narrow down which vehicle types work best for you, both now and in the future. Which of these statements echoes your needs?
- "I need a fuel-sipping commuter":The best subcompact and compact cars blend gas mileage with maneuverability, making them a smart choice for commuting.
- "I want a stylish, practical car": Today's midsize or full-size sedans suit a range of tastes with their modern designs, powertrain options, and convenience features. Some also offer all-wheel drive.
- "I want a daily driver that's lots of fun": If you're looking to add excitement to your commute, a sporty coupe, a manual transmission car, or a four-door sports car are designed to deliver the spirited performance you crave.
- "I need a good-looking car with lots of trunk space": The best hatchbacks and station wagons combine car-like driving manners and flexible cargo space into one stylish package.
- "I need more room for my growing family": Families need lots of space for passengers and belongings, which is why minivans and three-row SUVs with seven-passenger and eight-passenger cabins are so popular. With enough room for your precious cargo, you'll be able to travel comfortably.
- "I want a capable vehicle that's versatile": The best crossovers and SUVs provide powerful performance and a flexible interior to keep up with your active lifestyle. Many models also offer all-wheel or four-wheel drive.
- "I need a truck for tough jobs": Whether it's a small pickup, a full-size truck, or a popular pickup, you're bound to find a model with the capability you need. There are many high-mpg trucks to choose from, too.
- "I want to lower my emissions":Great for around-town driving, an electric or hybrid car could fit your eco-conscious lifestyle. You can also find many used hybrid SUVs if you need extra space.
2. Set a budget
Once you figure out your ideal vehicle type, the next step is setting a budget. A car payment calculator can help you determine how much you want to spend each month.
With a wide range of used car prices, you're sure to find many vehicles that fit your budget. To help you compare your options, we've compiled a list of research articles on the best used cars, SUVs, and trucks by price range:
- 4 Best Pickup Trucks under $25K for 2020: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 10 Best Pickup Trucks under $25K: Ranked
- 10 Best SUVs with 3 Rows under $25K: Ranked
You can also check out these used vehicle ranking guides by type and price to narrow down your options:
- 130 Best Used Cars for 2020: Ranked by Type & Price
- 60 Best Cars for the Money for 2020: Ranked by Price
- 74 Best SUVs for 2020: Ranked by Type & Price
3. Pay attention to reliability
You don't have to buy a new vehicle to get a dependable ride. Many used models boast strong reliability ratings, providing the peace of mind that your used car, truck, or SUV will be with you for the long haul.
When shopping for a used vehicle, always look for RepairPal reliability ratings. These ratings are based on the actual cost, frequency, and severity of unscheduled repairs and maintenance on make/model data for select 2010–2019 vehicles. The reliability of a specific vehicle may vary depending on its maintenance and driving history, model year, trim, and features, but it's an excellent tool to help you find a reliable vehicle.1
To learn about the used models and brands that have strong RepairPal reliability ratings, read these CarMax articles:
- 21 Most Reliable Car Brands for 2020
- 22 Most Reliable Cars for 2020
- 12 Most Reliable Trucks for 2020
- 8 Most Reliable Minivans for 2020
- 15 Most Reliable SUVs for 2020
4. Research, research, research
When buying a used car, knowledge is power — so you must do your homework. Researching your next vehicle will not only help you find the right model to suit your needs and budget, it can also ensure you get the features that matter most.
CarMax has an extensive library of vehicle reviews with car buying guides and comparisons to help you do your research. You'll also find comprehensive reviews on some of the most popular models:
- 2020 Honda Civic: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 2020 Chevrolet Camaro: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 2019 Ford Fiesta: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 2019 Ford Mustang: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 2020 Acura MDX: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 2019 Chrysler 300: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 2020 Honda Odyssey: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 2020 Jeep Wrangler: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 2020 Ram 1500: Reviews, Photos, and More
- 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid: Reviews, Photos, and More
5. Consider your personality
Whether you're shopping for a cool-looking commuter or a family-friendly ride, you deserve a car that matches your style. For example:
- If you appreciate the finer things in life, a luxury car can provide a premium experience, with high-end features and materials.
- Have you always dreamed of owning a muscle car? From Chevy to Dodge to Ford, you'll find many models sporting a ferocious growl.
- If you like cruising with the top down, these top-selling convertibles will let you feel the wind in your hair.
- Craving heart-racing acceleration with tight cornering? These sports cars will have you living life in the fast lane.
Are you ready to find your next used car, truck, or SUV? CarMax can help you discover the one that's right for you. Start your used car search today.
1RepairPal Reliability Ratings are provided by RepairPal and CarMax is not responsible for their accuracy. These ratings are based on RepairPal Reliability data as of 09/01/2020. Learn more at repairpal.com/reliability.
Unless otherwise noted, information related to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.