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13 Horrible Places To Buy a Used Car

There are more ways than ever to find and own a great car. Being a used vehicle is a practical way to get a “new-you-you” car reasonably priced. But not everything is a good deal. Avoid making a massive mistake when buying a used car by avoiding these 13 awful places on your search. 

Foreclosure Sales

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Like buying a foreclosed home, buying a foreclosed vehicle spells trouble. Foreclosed vehicles have limited warranties, and once the warranty is up, you might be the proud new owner of a lemon. On rare occasions, the car’s previous owner may track it down and want it back. It’s better to start fresh or buy from an authorized dealership. 

Pop-Up Sales

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Pop-up sales should only be for small, impulsive purchases, like trinkets or small gifts. Buying a car from a pop-up sale leaves you vulnerable to scams, not to mention unprofessional, unknowledgeable sellers without the right expertise to tell you about the car’s history. They don’t have to be truthful, either, leaving you vulnerable to buying an inefficient, horrible car.  

Dealerships Pushing In-House Financing

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Many dealerships offer in-house financing, which isn’t bad in itself. However, a third-party lender would be preferable because of the excessive, high interest rates offered in-house. Always shop around to see what you can be approved for before arriving at a dealership. That way, you won’t be tempted to use in-house financing once you’re already there. 

Online Marketplaces

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Researching your options is always a good idea. But committing to a car without doing your due diligence or sending money without seeing the car is a horrible idea. For one thing, you don’t have a true sense of the car’s performance, history, and condition just from photos. Seeing a car in person is the only way to verify its existence and condition. Leave the guessing to smaller purchases, like clothes or trinkets.  

Low-Review Dealerships

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Some one-star ratings are indeed unjustified or from a one-off bad experience. Others paint an ugly picture of what you’ll experience if you buy at the dealership. If there are consistent horror stories, you won’t be the exception. If you decide to go, be prepared to add negative reviews to the list. 

Shady Salespeople

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Feeling pressured to close the deal? If you’re being rushed, it’s for a reason. To a shady salesperson, you’re part of a quota to meet. While many salespeople act with integrity and want to match you with a car for your needs and desires, plenty want to close the deal, no questions asked. 

Auction House

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Auction houses don’t have an obligation to inspect the vehicles they sell. Once you win an auction, you may have won the car, but you won’t know if it even works until it’s in your hands. Then you’ll have to lug a useless vehicle home with you a few thousand dollars less than before. 


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Not only is it a logistical nightmare to get the car overseas, but imagine the fees and shipping costs to get it here. Legally, it can also cause a lot of problems for you. If you really have your heart set on a vehicle, know the true costs of getting it here before making the purchase. 


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There’s nothing wrong with looking at a car online to learn more about it. But if a car is for sale and there’s no paperwork or other trace of where it’s been, you don’t know its history. Think twice before putting a deposit down on a car online. Don’t enter your banking or credit card information through an unverifiable source.    

Dealerships with No Refund or Return Policies

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No matter what, you should always buy from a dealership with some sort of refund or return policy. Without it, you’re stuck with a car you’re unhappy with and a payment you don’t want to make. Always ask to see full refund and return policies, and have the salesperson elaborate on anything unclear. 

Unsafe Locations

Parking in the Dark
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No matter how good the deal is, never meet up with someone in an isolated, hidden location. It’s a quick way to get out of a car and your sense of security. Instead, if you’ve reviewed all of the information and have what you need, agree to meet in a public, well-lit location like a busy parking lot. 

Unlicensed Sellers

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People sell their used vehicles all of the time without a license, but it doesn’t always make it a good idea. Having a verified seller means you, as the consumer, are protected from scams or a terrible used vehicle. So, if you notice the seller of a used car you’re eyeing has no certifications to verify the quality of the car, reconsider before taking out the wallet. 

Dealerships with Limited Warranty Options

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Warranties ensure that you get protection from faulty parts. While used vehicles have normally surpassed the original warranty time, buying a used car that is Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) has some sort of warranty in case an issue occurs with your purchase. Ask your car dealership if they offer CPO vehicles as part of their line-up. Many do! 

Author: Gretchen Gales


Gretchen Gales is a freelance writer, the executive editor of Quail Bell Magazine, and the author of the poetry chapbook Agora. Writing for nearly a decade, her work has appeared in Business Insider, Next Avenue, The Huffington Post, Bustle, and others. Gretchen has also been interviewed for Her Campus as part of their “How She Got There” series and an interview with the popular website Dear English Major. 

Gretchen, a knowledge geek and educator, loves breaking down complicated concepts into something everyone can understand and enjoy. A Jill of all (Writing) Trades, there aren’t many topics she hasn’t written about. 


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