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Tips for women buying a used car

Updated on March 13, 2011

For anyone, but designed for women

This can be used by anyone but is designed for women, because they usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to making purchases such as used cars. There is the ‘Lemon’ that we’ve all heard about and come to hate. The horror stories told and re-told of a junk car that has been dumped on the unwary.

I am going to give you a few tips in your quest to purchase that used car of your dreams.

The first thing to remember is TAKE YOUR TIME.  If you rush into a car dealership they are going to stick you with the first piece of junk that they can.

DO NOT APPEAR DESPERATE - If you tell them you really NEED a car, again they will come up with the worst piece of garbage they have on the lot just to unload it.

How to appear

Now that you’ve slowed down just a bit and are getting a breather, let’s move on.

Do your best to appear confident.  Do not go in giggling and silly acting, this will only cause you problems.  Try to take a man with you, men automatically get more respect when purchasing vehicles.  Keep in mind that 2 women looking at cars will not get much respect, you will be shown a ‘pretty’ car, one that you would look great in. 

Walk the lot slowly, looking at each car.  If the prices are not CLEARLY marked on the vehicles, leave that dealership.  No questions, no comments, just leave.  Why?  Because the price of the car will change depending on who is buying it.  Your mode of dress, your credit, the size of our wallet or your attitude will change those prices.

'As Is' means AS IS

Now you’ve found the car you wish to look at.  You may see a sticker on the side with  ‘Warranty’ information on it.  Most used vehicles say ’As is’, (unless covered by the Manufacturer).  What exactly this mean is what you see is what you get.  Some have a 30 day warranty covering only 25% of the cost of repairs.  Understand, this is what is it.  If it breaks after you buy it, you will have a nice driveway ornament.

At this point your dealer may start to get a little pushy, wanting to draw up the paperwork.  


You would like to test drive it.  Don’t just drive it around the block.  Take it for a real drive.  Get on the expressway (if you use one a lot), get it up to the maximum speed.  Hit the brakes, get a feel for it.  Your life could depend on how it handles in a sticky situation, you want all the parts to work.

When getting back to the lot the dealer may be ready to draw up the paperwork.


You want YOUR mechanic to take a look at it.  It doesn’t matter if they say they have had someone look at it.  You want someone YOU trust to look at it.  For under $100 most car repair shops will give you an inspection from bumper to bumper.  It’s better to spend the $100 now than drive off the lot and break down in the road a mile away.

If they tell you that you are not allowed to do this, leave.  There is a reason they don’t want another mechanic to look at it.  It will break.

Learn to Dicker

If there is anything wrong with it, most dealers will come down in price if it’s worth fixing to you.  You can make deals (in other words dicker) with them, you can state your price.  Be prepared to walk away if they don’t meet your demands.  For instance a cracked windshield.  Those cost around $125 to replace (depending on the car) make them come down in price.  You’ll have to get it fixed, take it off the cost of the car.  If it needs new brakes, those are well over $200 at most brake shops.  Take it off the cost of the car.  Air bag light on?  Automatically you know there is something wrong with it, more than likely it doesn’t work.  This is going to cost close to $1000 to fix, how badly do they want to sell you the car?  Your dealer may pull up a car showing you the ‘Kelley Blue Book’ value of that particular model.  Remember that model is in EXCELLENT condition.  DO NOT let them fool you!


You have been told over and over to ‘Get the Carfax’.  Are you aware just what a Carfax is?  Essentially it is telling you how many owners the vehicle has had, whether there have been proper oil changes done (at a dealership), if it has been in any accidents and if it has had an major repairs done.  All done by licensed people, these are the ones who do the reporting.  You will never find any work done by a backyard mechanic on the Carfax.  This is why you need to take it to a mechanic you trust.


Now you are ready to have them draw up the paper work.  When he hands you that pen to sign.


Read through EVERYTHING, if you don’t understand it, don’t sign it.  If it’s blank DON’T SIGN IT!!

READ EVERYTHING, take your time.  If you are getting a loan make sure you read the amount of interest you are paying.  If you don’t like it, walk away.  If you don’t like the payment amount, DO NOT SIGN. 

If you are putting cash down, MAKE CERTAIN that you can see the difference in the price of the car minus your down payment, that will be your balance to be financed.

If you are doing a ‘trade in’ they will tell you what they are giving you for your old vehicle, make sure you see that difference in the remaining balance. 

If your dealer tells you “I can make it look like you put X amount down”, walk away.  They will be committing fraud.   They are just raising the cost of your vehicle, and you will be paying interest on their dishonesty.  


As my readers have explained below and I feel it would be remiss of me not to correct, I am doing so. But there is a point to leaving it up.

GAP insurance is just this; You make your purchase, you drive off the lot and have not put a sizable down payment on your vehicle, it immediately depreciates. if you get into an accident in a month or two and you vechile is totaled, there would be a 'gap' in the amount that your insurance would pay and what you are left owing on the vehicle. This is what the coverage is for.

But I must tell you, that the reason I put the information that I did, is what I was told by 4 DIFFERENT dealers. So people, make your self aware, READ everything yourself, do not trust what you are told. It was a mistake on my part putting this in, for that I apologize at not having it correct the first time. I hope that I have rectified this.

Thanks to my readers it has been corrected!

GAP Insurance

You may be required to purchase GAP insurance.  This is more like a warranty, if your car breaks down after 1 year and you are still making payments on it you can have GAP pay for part of the repairs.  Read the paperwork on this CAREFULLY before signing.  The insurance generally costs around $1200 (depending on the vehicle) and is added on to your balance.  So you will be paying interest on that $1200.  It stops when the vehicle is paid for, unless otherwise specified.  This is used by the less reputable car dealers, most of the time required by lenders, to ensure that you continue paying for your car.  More than likely, you won't want to pay for a broken down vehicle.

You can always WALK AWAY!

Always keep in mind, until you sign the paperwork and take ownership of the vehicle, at any time if you don’t feel comfortable with this purchase you can WALK AWAY.  The only thing you will be out is a few hours of your time and possibly the $100 you spent at your mechanic.  Spending $100 to discover that you almost purchased junk is well worth it.

There is always another dealership down the road who is willing to sell you a vehicle at the price you want to pay.  


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    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Michigan

      Well said John! Research is the key to getting a good deal!

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hello Sweetsusieg, great hub and very informative. Voted useful.

      FYI: I'm into cars and have told and shown my relatives (mostly female members of my family, though male friends as well) to be careful when buying used cars. If you do your research, you'll find that oftentimes used cars are only a few hundred dollars less than new ones; and, additionally, many dealerships will sell used cars for more money than they will new automobiles on the premise that the used automobiles have more aminities than the new ones. All said though, some of these used vehicles might have as much as 25-30k miles, or even more. So not to sound like a broken records, but people should always research everything taking the plunge....

      Take care


    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Oh absolutely. They are done actually, they had their license pulled. Hmmm, I wonder if maybe a few phone calls to Ford had anything to do with it?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm hoping you have the 3 strike and you're out rule. Time to find another place to buy your vehicles.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Have I proven my point yet? Women are treated like second class citizens, when it was explained what GAP insurance was to me (by a car dealer) the above was told to me. I will correct it in the Hub.

      A few years later I bought a Ford Escort from the very same dealer (see what happens when you 'trust'?) Used of course. It did not have the GAP insurance, nor I was offered an extended warranty. Within 3 months the transmission went out. It cost me over $1000 to fix it.

      This very same dealer sold us a used Ford Van, they committed fraud on the paperwork. By the time they had their license pulled they were 0-3 with us.

    • sklein profile image


      7 years ago from Atlanta, Ga

      Good Hub, but the information on Gap Insurance is totally wrong. Gap Insurance works like this: If you buy (new or used, doesn't matter) a vehicle for say $15,000 and 3 months later you get in a car accident, your fine, but the car is totaled. Your insurance company will pay (they all have different guidelines) market value which unless you put a big down payment down, the loan amount will be much higher. In other words, the loan amount might be $14,000, but your insurance might only pay $10,000. That's a $4,000 gap between the loan amount that needs to be paid off and the insurance settlement. The Gap Insurance would pay the $4,000.

      Gap Insurance is a good idea if you don't put much money down especially on a new car that loses at least $4,000 when you drive off the lot. Some people are upside down in their car loans by over $10,000 or even more. Gap Insurance shouldn't cost more than $800 (if you know how to negotiate a little you can get it for much less) so it can be a good investment if you're going to be upside down.

      An extended service contract (extended warranty) is what will pay for a repair if your car breaks down like you had.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      I really should have put in here if you are going to buy then certainly ONLY got to a dealership that sells Certified Used cars. Because those are backed by the Manufacturers and are strictly enforced.

      I still back my statement on the GAP insurance, because we purchased a used van within 2 months the motor blew. Had we not had GAP we would have had a lovely lawn ornament. Our 30 day warranty had expired. We bought it at a used car dealership. They used to be backed by Ford, due to their shoddy practices, Ford removed their license to sell Ford vehicles.

      I live in Michigan, women are treated like second class citizen's here. Even something as simple as having brakes put on your vehicle will be charged up to triple what it should cost.

      It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to buying a used vehicle.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion.

    • profile image


      7 years ago from Columbus, OH

      I have to disagree a little bit on this one. There is some mis-information as well as some things that just are not important in most circumstances. I'm a female and I sell cars. First of all, if you are a female, feel free to go by yourself. Most places realize now that women, even if not the primary buyer, influence most all car buying decisions. They will not show you the "pretty" car or the one you "look good" in. Most dealerships (I'm not going to include small, buy here, pay here lots as everyone should know to stay away from those) all offer what is called a CERTIFIED USED CAR. This particular car, no matter what brand you are shopping, is the way to go. You will pay a little bit more for it, but dealerships cannot half service one of these cars. They all have to go through the manufacturers checkpoints (most are well over 100 points of parts to be checked). They cannot be flood or smoke damaged cars. They cannot have frame damage or any other carfax related major safety issue. They also come with a warranty from the manufacturer, not the dealer. These cars do not need to be taken to your mechanic as they've already been checked out. Plus, if anything goes wrong, 90% of the time its completely covered! The Gap insurance is only used in the event that there is a total loss on your vehicle while it still has a lien on it. It has nothing to do with the car breaking down. It pays off the deficiency in what the car is worth versus what you owe on the car.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      @ Mimi721wis - There are man options to you as a buyer, you don't have to accept the first price they offer. Their pay is based on commission, how badly do they want to make that sale? $100 bucks commission is better than none at all.

      @ cristolite - Thanks.

      Thank you both for stopping by

    • crystolite profile image


      7 years ago from Houston TX

      Nice hub,thanks for great tips.

    • Mimi721wis profile image


      7 years ago

      I have noticed when purchasing a vehicle, when you walk away the dealer usually drops the price, they will call,or match other prices. Great article!

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Please do!! I won't be loved by your dealer, but I'm not 'looking for love in all the wrong places!!' I'd much rather see you get the best possible deal for your money!

      Remember if your dealer promises you ANYTHING, quick write it down (make 2 copies) have him sign it!! You keep one copy and make sure he gets the other. if he says 'This isn't necessary, we are all friends here'... Tell him "you'd just feel better if he signed it. After all don't friends want to make friends feel better?"

      If at all possible buy from a 'Certified Per-Owned Dealership', they have to follow all the rules of the manufacturer!!! If in the future you should have problems, if the dealership has made mistakes they have to answer to the Manufacturer. Believe me, this is something they do not want to do.

      So glad I could help you!!

    • Pixienot profile image


      7 years ago from Clarksville, Indiana


      I loved DRBJ's idea. I have to agree with her. Next time I go car shopping, which might be soon, considering my 1998 is on her last leg, I will consider printing and taking this with me. It certainly could not hurt.

      Thank you so much for this very informative hub. You have hit all of the points that I think are important to female buyers. We need all the help we can get!

      Voted up and useful!

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you! Wouldn't that be funny? I think I'd faint if I saw someone with a printed off copy of my Hub standing to buy a used car!!

      Yes, I agree that everyone could use these tips. I've heard of so many people being taken advantage of when buying used cars. It makes me so sad.

      Do you have any more commandments to add? Please feel free to do so!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      This hub, susie, is like a Used-Car Bible with a number of excellent Commandments. Everyone, male or female, who is thinking of purchasing a "pre-owned" car should have a copy to take with when car shopping. It would save the buyer both money and aggravation. Outstanding job.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks! It comes from a hard lesson that's for sure! I spoke with a 'Lemon Law' Attorney the other day, she helped me a little bit. She did tell me what will lose in a court cast. The phrase 'I didn't know I couldn't take the car to my mechanic' is automatically thrown out, the seller wins.

      My daughters car had the air bag light on, she was told 'it just needs to be reset'. We thought that may be a 'failure to disclose'... Nope, my daughter saw the light and still bought it.

      The law REALLY protects the seller, it is Buyer Beware all the way.

      So if you don't have a good chance to win, then next best thing is to be informed...

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Chatkath profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Thank you Susie! Great Hub, Great Information! A Must Read!

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you jmerriam! I have learned a few lessons over the years when buying cars. Since my daughter didn't take my advice, has ended up with problems. Luckily we were able to help her out financially for the moment.

      In the process I have talked to people about things we could have done before the paperwork was signed. I felt it would be remiss of me not to try and help someone else out!

      Thank for stopping by!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      As a female car dealer, I agree 100% with absolutely everything that you said. Thanks for spreading the word and teaching people how to buy a car. I am happy to give anyone advice on buying a car. You can find me at


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