How to Buy a Used Car from a Certified Dealer on OfferUp

OfferUp is home to thousands of verified auto dealers across America and there are some amazing deals to be had. Take a look at our top ten tips to keep in mind when shopping for a new (to you!) used car from a certified dealer.

1) Budget, budget, budget. After you find your deal, remember that you won’t just be making payments on your car. You still need to pay for registration, insurance, gas, and general maintenance. Keeping in mind the car’s age and mileage, some new tires may also be in order. If you’re at the top of your monthly budget, you may want to consider a cheaper option for a healthier bank account in the long run.

2) Maintenance or bust. A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t normally shop for high-end transport, it’s probably better for your budget if you manage to control yourself and avoid those options in a lot. Even though the price isn’t what it once was, the maintenance costs for that car cost the same. Unless you want to be back in the market for a used car in a couple of years, it’s better if you select a vehicle with notoriously cost-effective upkeep.

3) The importance of Q&A. Make sure you’re asking the right questions when you’re thinking about making your purchase:

  • Has the vehicle had any major repair work done?

  • Has there been any water damage to either the interior or exterior of the car?

  • Does the car show signs of rust?

  • If the car is “certified”, what does that entail? If the certification process seems too simple, it probably is.

  • Does the car pass safety and emissions testing?

  • How regularly was the car serviced and can I see those records?

  • How many owners has the car had?

4) Price check, please! There are a ton of different factors that go into the zesty price sticker plastered on the windshield of the car that caught your eye. Often, dealers will find cars at auctions and mark the price up, keeping in mind factors like the cost of any fixes, sales commissions, local market value, and some extra padding for expected negotiations from buyers. Keyword: expected. They want you to negotiate, and we do, too. Educate yourself on the average cost of the car you want using websites like Kelly Blue Book.

5) Check VIN for the win. If you’ve found your speedster soulmate, take note of the VIN number and enter it into vehicle history report providers like Carfax, Autocheck, and Vinaudit. You’ll also want to check for info on if the car has been recalled for any reason. You can find that information on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website by entering the VIN here.

6) Warranties are in. One benefit of buying from a certified dealer is the potential for extended warranties. If a car is more than four years old, generally any factory warranties will have lapsed, so it’s best to look at your options with the dealer before making any final decisions. Pro tip: Proceed with caution on cars sold “as is.” It’s possible they’re just at their bottom dollar and can’t offer any extras, but it’s also possible the car isn’t as structurally sound.

7) Test drive Daytona style. Usually, when you’re test driving a car, the salesperson has a predetermined route they’ll take you on that’s both convenient to the lot, and convenient to their clock. Come prepared with your own route that incorporates different types of travel conditions: somewhere with traffic, through streets, on the freeway, etc. Check with the salesperson in advance keeping in mind their time. If you can’t get through it all, test drive it again another day. If you see dashboard lights coming on, or things like strange smells or sounds, you may want to pass on that car or have a professional investigate further.

8) Check-up or mess up. Take the car in for a check-up before you sign the dotted line. While you’ll need to pay for this out-of-pocket, it’s money well spent if the mechanic finds something particularly concerning ahead of time.

9) Don’t be intimidated. Before you decide to take a car to a professional for inspection, there are a handful of things you can do before calling in the big guns (and hopefully saving you some money). It’s true, not everyone is well-versed in inspecting cars, fixing cars, or even driving a manual engine. However, you can look at something and have the basic knowledge to know it’s wrong. Here are a few things the “average Joe” can look at when considering a used car:

  1. Take a look at the lines around the outside of the car. If there are places where there are misalignments, cracks or scratches, or what appears to be recent welding work, you should check with the dealer about what needed fixing. It could be a sign that issues may crop up in the future because of those repairs.

  2. Get down ‘n dirty and check out the underside of the car for rust or leaks. Either could mean a lot of money in repairs down the line.

  3. Check the fluid levels and colors. If any fluids are very dark, there could be a very serious issue.


10) #retailtherapy. Just because you spent a lot of time in one place with one salesperson doesn’t mean there aren’t more fish in the sea. You’ll never know what you might be missing until you’ve seen it all with your own eyes, or at least scrolled past it in your OfferUp feed. Some dealerships will provide free services like detailing, gift cards, and even free maintenance for buying with them. Sometimes, the perks are worth a little nudge in one direction.

Any large purchase is a scary one, but buying a car doesn’t have to be. At the end of the day, we all just want to fly off into the sunset with our arms around Olivia Newton-John, and finding the car of your dreams gets you at least halfway there!