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The Last Steps in Buying a Used Car

Christine Spencer

Auto Loan Expert

You’ve done your research and inspected the car thoroughly. You negotiated and haggled with the dealer or seller of the car you want. You’ve gone on a complete test drive and had your mechanic confirm that the used car you’ve got your eye on is in good working order. Everything is almost done to buy the used car of your dreams, so what are the last steps that you need to take? Most guides that deal with used cars focus on things like used car loan interest rates. Chase whatever information you want, but the last few steps of buying a used car are rarely covered. That’s why we thought we’d provide this handy guide to help you close the deal and drive home in the used car you’ve always wanted.

Check Your Trade-In Value

The Last Steps in Buying a Used Car

If you’re trading in your old car as part of the deal with a dealership, they’ll offer you a value on your car. Frequently this offer will come at the very end of the negotiation process, and you might be tired and anxious, aching to go home in the car you’ve sold yourself on. However, the money involves means that it’s worth taking some time to review their offer.

While most dealerships will offer you a reasonably fair value for your trade-in, a bit of research may show that you can get more money selling it privately. This is usually the case as the car dealership will need to make a profit. However, if there’s a large difference between what you can get for the car and what the dealership is offering you, it may be worth your while to hold out a bit longer, or even to try and sell your trade in elsewhere to put the cash toward a down payment.

Finalize Your Loan

The next step is to finalize your loan, if you are using financing. As a savvy consumer you almost certainly pre-qualified for your auto loan, but pre-qualification only provides a range of possibilities, your actual loan terms may change once the lender runs a hard credit check. Be sure to evaluate the terms of your car loan so that you can be sure that you understand what your payments will be like and how different loan lengths affect the payment. Used car loans are tricky creatures, so make sure you give them the attention they deserve. Furthermore, make sure that the loan length is correct. A 60 month used car loan results in dramatically different payments than a 72 month used car loan.

Change and Adjust your Insurance

The next step, before you drive away in your car, is to change your insurance. Most loans require you to have comprehensive insurance coverage, and even though the risk that something awful happens on your way home is small, the magnitude of the risk justifies being careful. If your car is in an accident and gets totaled, and you don’t have comprehensive insurance, then you’ll still have to pay off the entire car loan. This can be financially ruinous, as you will have a new large monthly expense and no car to show for it.

Thankfully, many insurance companies operate 24/7 help lines that will let you update your policy and pay the difference between the coverage on your new car and your old car. This is one area where you might have a happy surprise, as the car you’re buying may be cheaper to insure than your old car. If you do not have insurance yet, there are many companies such as this, that offer free insurance quotes.

Make Sure you Have the Right Paperwork

Finally, it may take a while to get all of the paperwork you need in order. This includes things like taxes, registration, and title transfers. If you’re buying your used car from a dealership they’ll take care of most of this, but it still takes time to process. The dealership or private seller will be able to provide you with the forms you need to show you are the legal owner of the car and prevent any unpleasant confusion.


As you can see, the final steps to purchasing a used car are just as important as the research and test driving steps. Make sure you don’t let exhaustion or nerves cause you to rush through the process, and you’ll be on your way home in your used car in no time.