How to Choose a Used Car

These are basics of buying a used or pre-owned vehicle.

Vehicle Type

First determine what your transportation needs are:

Photo example of a pickup truck

Do you need a 4-wheel drive pickup to haul loads in?

Photo example of a sedan type car

Do you need a four-door sedan…

Photo example of a minivan

…or a minivan to transport the family?

Photo example of a sports type car

A sporty coupe for fun? Maybe not practical for a Montana winter,
but with adequate snow tires, they work for in town and highway use.


Once you have determined a suitable vehicle for your needs, the price point that fits your budget will determine the age, quality and make of the vehicle you can afford. A conversation with your banker and an analysis of what you can comfortably afford should be included in this step.

Shop around for financing. Do not take what the dealer has available just because it is easy. You may get a better deal with a credit union or the bank you use.

Research the prospective vehicle you are looking at. Go online. The information available online is invaluable. Product reviews, safety recalls, and pattern failures common to particular makes and models of vehicles should all be investigated before purchasing.

When you test drive the vehicle, make sure all controls are comfortably within reach, you have a clear field of vision the vehicle is a good fit for you. Do not feel pressured by a salesperson into purchasing the vehicle until you are comfortable in doing so.

Vehicle Inspection

This is the point where you should make an appointment with your local service center to have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic and you can ask the service shop all the above questions.

Progressive service centers subscribe to online information systems that include all the above mentioned items and can inform you of any problems you may encounter with that particular vehicle.

The most important step you can take in purchasing a used vehicle is to have it inspected by a qualified mechanic. Typically these inspections cost between $40 and $100, depending on the shop and the depth of their inspection. This step can save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars in repairs to an abused vehicle.