Product Reviews

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Used vehicles are often the best values you'll find in the automotive market. This is especially true for models just two or three years old. Not only is the price lower than a comparable new car's, but continuing ownership expenses such as collision insurance and taxes are lower, and a two- or three-year-old used vehicle has already taken its biggest depreciation hit. In addition, buying used is a way to get a nicer car than you'd be able to afford new.


Whether you are looking for a certified pre-owned or a private sale, or are buying from a dealer or neighbor, Consumer Reports can help lead you through the used car buying experience. This guide provides the essential information you need to choose a used car with a good reliability history, sell your old car, and get the best price.


If you are in the market for a new car, see our advice in the new car buying guide

CR Expert Advice
What you need to know about buying a used car
Focus on Reliability
Narrow your shopping list by targeting models known for reliability, a virtue that becomes more important as a car ages and falls out of warranty.
Know the Value of the Vehicle
Condition, mileage, age, equipment levels, and the region all affect vehicle value. Know the true value of your candidate car, regardless of what the seller is asking.
Be Wary of Costly Add-Ons
Service contracts, glass etching, undercoating, and paint sealants are all unnecessary add-ons to help the dealership maximize its profits. Don't buy them.
Get Your Financing Secured
Go to a bank or credit union and be approved for a loan before you go to the dealership. The dealer may even try to beat their rate.
Visit a Mechanic
Don't let the dealer tell you they've inspected the car for you. Take the vehicle to a qualified mechanic that routinely does automotive diagnostic work.
Skip Extended Car Warranty
Surveys show it is rare that the premium you pay will equal the amount of a paid repair claim down the line unless you choose a model known to have a troubled reliability history.