Car salespeople in general are often treated with great mistrust, but rightly or wrongly, it’s the used car salesman who leads the stereotype of sliminess. But there are ways to make sure you get the upper hand in the negotiations once you’ve zeroed in on your used car.

Check the car’s value

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The Kelley Blue Book is a leading tool to estimate the value of a used car. Also look up many listings for the same car, and ask your salesperson to beat the price of a similar car sold elsewhere. Be prepared to walk away and buy one of those similar cars instead if you don’t get anywhere.

Inspect the car carefully

It’s always recommended to get an independent mechanical inspection and request a vehicle history report (from Carfax or one of its competitors) when buying a used car to make sure you don’t end up with a lemon. But also scour the vehicle for more minor cosmetic blemishes that you can point to when you explain why the car’s price should be lower.

Check different prices

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A used car dealership will typically list the same car all over the place. There will generally be an ad on its own website and also on such websites as Craigslist, or, plus a sticker price on the car itself. And often those prices vary, sometimes by thousands of dollars. Make sure you know all of them so the negotiations can start with the lowest one.

Don’t commit too soon

There are many pitfalls to buying a used car and many stages of the process where you could end up with a bad deal. It’s tempting to just power through when you’ve already invested a lot of time in a particular car, but if the negotiations aren’t going well, you may just have to bag it and start over. Remember, it’s still less painful than overpaying or ending up with a car you don’t like.

Brady Holt, a Washington D.C. newspaper reporter, has had a lifelong interest in cars in the automotive world, and he’ll share his thoughts at every available opportunity. Brady has written for since 2008, publishing hundreds of car reviews, automotive news pieces and other features. His work can be found on

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