Summer 2021 update: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected vehicle production worldwide and brought factory closures, limited staffing and a global shortage in semiconductor chips that are essential components in a modern vehicle. As a result, fewer new vehicles are available on dealer lots. And the combination of fewer new cars and more people looking for lower-priced vehicles has increased the demand for used cars and subsequently driven up prices.
This means that 2021 will not likely be a normal year in terms of the selection of cars and discounts you may encounter. Edmunds experts advise consumers in the market for a new car to start shopping sooner rather than later since they anticipate that the chipset shortage is likely to affect pricing and inventory through at least the second half of 2021.
If you're shopping for a new or used car in today's difficult marketplace, please also see "Shopping Tips During the Global Microchip Shortage" for our experts' targeted, data-driven advice.
This article was originally written before the pandemic when vehicle inventory and prices were more stable and predictable. That said, many of the major elements still ring true. You'll still need to determine a budget, find the right car, and research prices to be able to spot a good deal.
If you're looking to buy a used car, you're far from alone. Between private-party and dealership sales, nearly 40 million used vehicles change hands each year.
With so many choices, finding that one right car for you can be a challenge. So we've created a list of steps to help make finding and buying your perfect used car a breeze.
1. How much car can you afford?
2. Build a target list of used vehicles
3. Check prices
4. Locate used cars for sale in your area
5. Check the vehicle history report
6. Contact the seller
7. Test-drive the car
8. Have the car inspected
9. Negotiate a good deal
10. Get the paperwork done