Buying a Used Car in 7 Easy Steps in 2023

a customer going over some paperwork with a salesperson when buying a used car.

Following a few tips ensures your next vehicle purchase is a smooth process.

Key Takeaways

  • Purchasing a vehicle is exciting.
  • The process is changing for buyers because of online shopping.
  • You’ll still need to ensure the vehicle is in good shape before buying.
  • Mercury Auto Transport can assist when making an out-of-town purchase.

Purchasing a new-to-you car or truck is exciting, but it can also cause anxiety. Where do you look? How do you know the vehicle is in good shape? Are you getting a fair deal?

You’ll want to answer these questions before finalizing your purchase. Understand that the car-buying process has changed considerably over the past decade or so. You can now handle almost part of a transaction online, allowing you to expand your search for the perfect automobile.

Here Are The 7 Steps for Buying a Used Car in 2023

Step 1: Figure Out How Much You Can Afford

Buying a used car can be an exciting experience. You get to explore your options and find the perfect vehicle for you.  The best way to ensure you get a reliable used car that won’t break the bank is by figuring out how much car you can afford before you start looking.

There are three things that determine how much car you can afford: How much money you make, how much debt you have, and how much money is already set aside for future expenses.

If you have a set amount in mind that you want to spend on the car, make sure that amount includes all fees associated with buying the vehicle: taxes, registration fees, any optional warranties or service plans and any additional expenses that may come up during the course of ownership such as insurance premiums or maintenance costs.

Suggested Read: How to Save Cash When Buying and Shipping Out-of-State Vehicles

Step 2: Identify The Vehicle You Want

Of course, the entire car-buying process begins by identifying the exact make and model you want, or at least narrowing your search to a few options. This research can be time-consuming, but many shoppers enjoy learning so much about various automobiles on the market.

When researching vehicles, consider budget, gas mileage, seating, cargo room, reliability, crash rating, towing power, and winter-driving rating, among other factors. List attributes that are important to you and begin your search. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can search for dealerships with the vehicle in stock.

Step 3: Find a Dealership

In the past, identifying dealerships with your desired vehicle in stock was challenging. You’d often have to drive around town searching for cars that met your parameters and fit within your budget.

Online car shopping streamlines the entire car-buying process because you can find the exact vehicle you want on your smartphone using local dealerships’ websites or the various online car-search services available.

When shopping online, you can look for options in other cities or states without traveling there. This feature makes it far more likely you’ll end up with the car you want at a price you can afford.

Step 4: Take a Test Drive

When buying a vehicle locally, the next step is taking a test drive. Just because a car meets all your predefined parameters doesn’t mean it’s right for you. As you take the vehicle for a spin, consider the headroom, legroom, and seat comfort. Ensure the steering wheel is in a comfortable position or can be adjusted if necessary. 

You’ll also want to see if the check-engine light is on, listen for strange engine sounds, inspect the tires, and smell for burning oil or leaking gas. Check under the hood for leaks and ensure the air conditioning and heat work properly, too.

The test drive is your chance to learn the vehicle before committing; take advantage of your time with the car.

Step 5: Check The Title and History Report

Every vehicle has a history. Unless you’re buying from a trusted family member or purchasing a brand new car, you’ll want to look at a history report and the title before finalizing the deal.

The car’s title will ensure the seller is the vehicle’s valid owner, which is vital when buying privately. The title might also reveal if the car falls under a state lemon-law program, was previously written off, or incurred flood damage. Remember that this information is only on the title document in certain states.

Obtaining vehicle-history reports is essential before buying a car. Organizations like CARFAX and AutoCheck provide information based on the car’s VIN, relaying past accidents, maintenance, and previous owners. Most car dealerships will provide you with a free report, but it’s worth buying yourself when they do not.

Step 6: Get an Inspection

Taking the car to a third-party mechanic for an inspection could save you time and money. Many mechanics are incredibly busy, so getting in for a spur-of-the-moment inspection could prove challenging. Therefore, booking an appointment ahead of time could be your only option for getting a used-car assessment.

When buying an out-of-state car, you can’t take it for an inspection beforehand, increasing the risk of problems.

Step 7: Negotiate The Deal

Once you identify the ideal vehicle, take it for a test drive, and ensure the history report and title are clear, you can negotiate the final price with the seller. The amount of wiggle room varies based on the vehicle, dealership, and salesperson, but discounts are usually available.

It’s best to have an idea of what you’re willing to pay for the car before arriving at the dealership; start negotiations below that mark. The salesperson will usually meet you in the middle, which should be close to any reasonable budget.

Buying an Out-of-State Vehicle

Finding a great car in another city or state makes buying more challenging, but it isn’t impossible. You can still read car-history reports and haggle on the price, and it’s often easier to find a great deal when expanding your search. You can hire a car-shipping carrier to deliver the vehicle to your home.

Mercury Auto Transport is a vehicle shipping broker that can help you find a carrier. We deal exclusively with FMCSA-licensed and insured carriers, minimizing the chances of something going wrong during transport. Reach out to Mercury Auto Transport today to receive your free quote.


Get a quote.

Transport Vehicle FROM
Transport Vehicle TO
Vehicle Year
Vehicle Make
Vehicle Make
Vehicle Model
Vehicle Model
Vehicle Type
Full Name
Phone Number
Email Address
Available Date
Additional Information
Contact & Date

Thank you!

Thanks for submitting the form. You will be receive an email shortly.

What Our Customrs Are Saying


We feel it’s important for you to know how we determined your quote. Quotes are based on what the market demands for cars to be moved at a given time. Each quote is compared with the current rates on the National Load Board before being sent to our customers and will be reviewed periodically through the process.

Other companies might offer you a lower price to obtain your business. This method is ineffective because if the car does not pay the correct amount of money, it will run the probability of not getting loaded or transported on time. You will not get this information from our competitors. Truck drivers always take the loads that pay the most first, leaving the loads that are mispriced to be moved last or not at all. We try very hard to avoid this with our customers by quoting a fair but realistic quote up front. Visit our How we determine your quote page for more information.

Understanding auto transport insurance is important and we think it’s valuable to explain how it works. As part of providing a great car transport service, it is our job to guarantee that the carrier we assign to pickup your vehicle is licensed and insured. Click here to check out our license.

When you go with Mercury to ship your vehicle, you can rest assured that the carrier assigned to move your car is fully insured and licensed with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier and Saftey Administration).

Your vehicle is covered by the carrier’s insurance policy that is doing the shipping. Depending on the type and size of the truck/trailer that is shipping your car, the insurance policy can cover from $100,000 to $1,000,000 of damage.

We have also provided a checklist to explain what you need to do at both pickup and delivery in case there are any issues so, you can file a claim and know that everything will be taken care of.

It is rare but, time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit and it is good to know that your carrier’s insurance will protect your auto shipment in that event.

To view a sample BOL (Bill of Lading) and learn what to do in case of accidental damage, please check out our Condition Report and Procedure checklist.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible.  

We feel it’s important for you to know how we determine your quote.

When you’re looking for a car shipping rate, you want to understand how auto transport works. Prices are based on seasonal market demands for cars to be moved at any given time. Each quote is prepared based on the season and the current national rates.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible. Not all brokers are created equal in this talent.

Mercury does a thorough background check with each carrier for every shipment. We verify their ratings, references, and in addition, we obtain a certified copy of their insurance certificate, directly from the government agency that it is on file with.

You can have peace of mind knowing that the carrier shipping your vehicle is the very best and that there are no surprises guaranteed.

Mercury Auto Transport is licensed, Bonded and Insured. Our FMSCA Motor Carrier Number is MC647319.

While we do our best match your auto shipping needs with the most responsible carriers with the best track records, from time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit, it is good to know that the insurance of the carrier we locate for you will protect your auto shipment in that event.

Shipping a vehicle can be stressful if you don’t know what to do.  This is why we believe it is paramount to have our highly trained agents be your main point of contact from start to finish.

They will go over everything you need to know so you can relax.  In the meanwhile, we prepared this checklist.  This includes everything from pickup to delivery and how to make sure your car is ready for pickup.

When it comes to car moving, we want you to be ahead of the game!  For any questions and further assistance our agents are standing by, (800) 553-1828.  Please read our checklist to prepare your vehicle to learn more.

There are several ways you can ship a car.  The options include enclosed trailer, open carrier transport, flatbed truck, door-to-door shipping services, and to or from a terminal as well.  The most popular of the options is a 7 to 10 car open carrier.  These large trucks can accommodate almost any size vehicle including carsSUVstrucksjeeps, and vans.

Open car transport, door to door is also the best way to get the cheapest auto transport rate possible.  To learn more and see what transport method is best for you, please fill out our free quote form and one of our representatives will respond to you within minutes.  You can also call us at (800) 553-1828.

We present offers from FMCSA Licensed and Insured Carriers. When you accept an offer, we send your service agreement that guarantees the price, door-to-door service, and 100% bumper-to-bumper insurance. There are never any hidden fees or charges, guaranteed.