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SmartMoney podcast: ‘How Do I Buy a Used Car?’

Sept. 23, 2019
Personal Finance
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Welcome to NerdWallet’s SmartMoney podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions — in 15 minutes or less.

This week, Sean and Dayana settle a debate they’ve been having: What’s the best way to buy a used car? Sean’s been prowling Craigslist, while Dayana is set on a more traditional route. 

Our tips

Before shopping around, set your budget. Aim to keep the total cost of owning a car, including maintenance, gas and insurance, within 20% of your monthly take-home pay. 

Find the car-buying route that works best for you. If you’re a pro haggler, you might be able to find a deal on Craigslist. CarMax, meanwhile, offers a more relaxed car-buying experience that doesn’t involve negotiating. New options, like Carvana, make it easy to buy a car from the comfort of your couch and have the car delivered to you.

Know how to vet a used car. Examine the vehicle history report of any car you’re interested in, looking for things like serious accidents and how many owners it’s had. And consider the car’s mileage; about 12,000 miles annually is typical.


Track your car expenses and find the best route to savings.

More about car buying on NerdWallet

How to buy a used car

How to buy a cheap, drivable used car

Ditch the dealership with online used car sellers

Your car-buying cheat sheet

Have a money question? Text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at [email protected]To hear previous episodes, return to the podcast homepage.