buying a car for a new driver

ABuying a used car needn’t mean getting second best. Read our guide to making a smarter decision on your next pre-owned vehicle.

Key Takeaways:

  • Used cars are more readily available than ever, but a wider pool of choices puts greater responsibility on the buyer
  • Paperwork and vehicle history are crucial to an informed decision
  • Use every tip on our list in combination wherever possible
  • Working with an auto transport broker can protect your purchase and get it home safely

The American used car market is in a very healthy state having grown by 4.7% this year alone for an overall value of more than $160 billion. Whether or not the used vehicle you choose to buy is equally robust is a different story. The huge selection doesn’t make selecting one easier since it also increases the odds of buying a car with significant problems.

There’s still a lot that prospective buyers can do to improve their chances of finding a peach over a lemon. Also, there’s a lot more to consider than merely how good a vehicle looks. This guide will highlight the common pitfalls to avoid. Additionally, it’ll stress how important choosing the right auto transport carrier can be if you’re buying a used car from out of state.

1. Failing at financing

Purchasing a used car is often driven by financial necessity. It’s thus vital to cap how much you’re willing to pay. Therefore, choose carefully between outside funding from banks, credit unions, or dealerships. Each has pros and cons.

For example, financing from a bank you’re already a customer with can be easier and more affordable if they know you’re a sound prospect. This could lead to better rates. A bank’s interest rates can also be significantly over the national average. Therefore, sign up with caution – seemingly affordable monthly payments can amount to a real financial burden in the long run.

Dealer financing is often a big help for those with bad credit history. They’ll likely have a list of lenders willing to take on even risky financial prospects, making it easier (at least initially) to buy a used car. Interest rates are typically high since that’s where dealers make their money and used cars can quickly be repossessed when a buyer defaults on payments.

Credit unions offer a “human touch” since the buyer is a member and not just a customer. Unions usually offer lower interest rates than bigger financial organizations. However, not all of them are insured, which could make financing through one a risky venture. The takeaways in every case are to use a car loan calculator and shop around.

2. Neglecting the test drive

A test drive may seem like common sense, and yet, not every buyer does it. Being too trusting, polite, or in too much of a hurry can mean missing vehicle issues that signal deeper mechanical problems. It’s imperative to experience first-hand how a second- (or even third- or fourth-) hand vehicle handles, how it sounds, and even how it smells, before committing to buy.

3. Forgetting the mechanic

Test drives can tell you a lot but rarely reveal the whole picture. Skipping a mechanic’s check-up of a used car only saves money in the short term. Their expertise can prevent future financial headaches. Therefore, always consult one whenever their services aren’t part of your dealer’s used purchase package.

Buying second-hand from a private owner usually comes with assurances that the vehicle is in good condition and was handled responsibly. Sneaky sellers know that any problems found in the shop could lend the buyer some negotiating leverage. See how amenable sellers are to accommodating requests for a mechanic’s opinion. Additionally, use that as a green or red flag to proceed.

4. Not being comprehensive with the paperwork

Tracking down the paperwork that comes with a new car can be a challenge when you buy a used car. Start by checking the vehicle’s title. This proves the seller is the owner and is essential when registering the car as yours with the DMV. The title document sometimes reveals other potential deal-breakers. Furthermore, like any past damage to the car, accident, purchase history, existing liens, and odometer accuracy.

A buyer who uses financing may not have access to the property until all payments have been made. Do not rely on the seller’s word alone when researching an automobile. Also, consider anything that is not in the title. When purchasing a used vehicle, you should review the vehicle’s history report and any maintenance documents provided by the seller.

Sometimes a history report is part of the package while it’s up to the buyer at others. Sources like VinAudit, AutoCheck, CARFAX, and the NMVTIS cost little to nothing. Use historical information to cross-reference seller documents and stories to avoid making a poor decision.

Keep in mind that history reports aren’t infallible. Incidents can take a long time to show up in such records and that’s if they’re reported by the previous owner(s). Use your best first-hand and mechanic-backed judgment in combination with the historical record.

5. Not using an auto shipper for long-distance buys

It’s possible for buyers to be shown only photos and videos of a car that’s bought from out of state. This puts them at something of a disadvantage, which can be compounded by foregoing auto transport services. Picking the car up by yourself may seem cheaper yet be more trouble than it’s worth.

It only takes 50 miles for a journey to qualify as long-distance – and it brings with it all the associated risks and costs like secondary transport to get to the seller, gas, tolls, on-road damage, and a heightened potential for accidents. It may be illegal to drive a car in another state unless you are identified as the current owner.

Choosing an auto carrier can protect you and your new purchase from unnecessary harm when you buy a used car. There are three principal carrier options available and two pick-up methods each with its pros and cons, so weigh each one carefully to optimize your purchase experience and minimize risks.

Speak to the auto transportation professionals with any questions

Mercury Auto Transport is here to connect customers with carriers for the most cost-effective shipping service possible. Our carefully vetted roster of auto carriers is ready for your review, so call us toll-free at 800-553-1828 or email for more information.


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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.