The Best Free Online Tools To Help You Buy A Used Car

Buying a used car sounds like a hassle, and if you’re not careful it can be a disaster. Buying a used car, especially from a local used car dealership, can be stressful, and you want to know you’re getting the best deal possible without walking into a car with a lot of problems. Doing your research on a potential purchase doesn’t have to be tricky or expensive, and there are a lot of online tools that you can use for free to help you make the most informed purchase possible when buying a used car, or avoid a total lemon. 

The manufacturer’s VIN checker

Almost every manufacturer has a VIN check website that allows you to look up recalls for your specific car. It’s important to remember that just because there was a recall on a car like the 2015 Jeep Wrangler, that doesn’t mean every single 2015 Jeep Wrangler has the defective part or potential problem. Using the VIN check will let you see if your car has any recalls that have or haven’t been serviced. 

The GM Recall Website | GM

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Buying completely online

There are a handful of large, reputable car dealerships that operate completely online, and you can complete a virtual tour and finance your car without ever stepping foot onto the dealership. These websites lower the pressure of having to travel to a car dealership and give you space and time to look through the extensive inventory at your own pace. Buying a car completely online isn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good option for a lot of people.

A computer screen shows a Lamborghini at an online auction website
A computer screen shows a Lamborghini available on an online shopping website | Photo by Simon Song / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

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Use a VIN check to see the car’s specs

Another fun thing that I love to do is to see what specs the car has. Since you aren’t the original owner and don’t have the choice of adding on options, it’s hard to know exactly what the car might have outside of standard features. You might find an exciting option that isn’t included in the listing, or you can use the list to verify the options listed and make sure that they are accurate to the seller’s description. 

2020 Porsche Cayenne interior
2020 Porsche Cayenne interior | Porsche

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When you’ve done your research you can feel a lot more comfortable heading to the dealership or a private car sale because you’ve looked into that specific car more. Buying a new-to-you car can be exciting, and sometimes that excitement clouds our judgment, but cars are a big financial obligation and even if you are buying them used, you should do as much as possible to make sure you’re buying a decent car.