Metro Detroit Used Cars


Used Car Dealers & Used Cars Detroit

  • One of the first thing you should do is check out some dealership websites to get an idea the prices they charge for their used models as well as how much you would save from a brand new model of the vehicle you want, especially with the rise of Electric Vehicles which may be more expensive up front but save you money over time, like the Volt and others from Chevrolet, or the Ford EV Mustangs and F-150 Lightnings. Always good to know all of your options, even if just to see if a typical used car lot is pricing too high compared to dealerships that provide more consumer assistance if you have any issues.

Maybe you've already browsed our page on auto auctions in Detroit, and you've decided that it would be easier and less of headache to just buy a used car from a private seller or from a used car dealership. In truth, either method has its pros and cons, and if you decide to go the used car route, there are some things you'll need to know before you jump into the buying process.

On this page we'll give you some of our best tips and tricks for a smooth used car purchase, and we have also provided a list of Detroit used car dealers on your left, along with their phone numbers so you can call for more information before you head out in search of that perfect new (yet old) ride.

Following the advice on this page will save you both time and money when it comes to buying a used car in Detroit, and if you take the time to really digest the information we present here, you'll be the used car buying expert that all your friends and colleagues rely on when it's their turn to buy a used car! Let's get started...

Why a Used Car is Better Than a New Car

Everybody has heard the old adage that a new car loses a huge amount of value as soon as you drive it off the lot. It's true that its value drops by approximately $1,000 to $2,000! But that's not the most convincing reason that a used car is better than a new car.

The clincher for us is the fact that a new car will often have mistakes and defects. These are of course covered by the warranty, but when you purchase a used car, the previous owner has most likely already had all those defects fixed during their warranty period. So it's much less hassle on your end.

Finally, if you were purchasing a new car, you may not be able to afford, or may not prefer to pay for, all the optional features. With a used car, you can have it all upgraded to the fullest extent without having to part with all that extra cash.

You Can Never Know Too Much

There are so many pieces of literature that you can read before buying a used car, and we recommend that you read as many as you can get your hands on. Magazines like Consumer Reports are a great place to start. Thanks to the internet, most of this information can be found with just a few clicks. You can find reviews of any make and model of car just by doing a quick Google or Bing search. But don't limit your searches to just buyer reviews.

Also take the time to look up the typical maintenance costs for the vehicle. You may have the budget for a used car that would be very expensive if it were new, for instance a BMW! But note that the costs to replace the parts on a BMW are exorbitantly high compared to that of a Ford or Chevy. These are things that you should know before you buy your used car, not after! If you can afford those extra costs, that's great. But if you can't, you don't want to be stuck with no options after the fact.

Do Your Own Title Check

Many private sellers and dealerships do title checks and report the results to you, but depending on what company they use, their results may not be accurate or complete. Typically they will go with the cheapest company to save themselves money over the long haul, and that doesn't always get the best results for you. We highly recommend Though no company can be one hundred percent accurate, VinAudit is the most comprehensive and much more affordable option, even more so than the big, heavily advertised company that you are likely to think of first. Their report will tell you if the car you're looking at has been in any serious accidents, has undergone any repairs, what the vehicle mileage truly is, and so much more.

As with on our auto auctions page, we want to remind you that there are cars being sold around the country that were flooded in Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters. When this happens, the salt water causes corrosion and ultimately those systems that function today do fail. You'll want to get that complete history report from your title check so you know if your car has been through anything like that. These cars are of course much cheaper, but it amounts to throwing your money away. Never buy anything that was flooded.

Never Trust The Salesman

This has nothing to do with being cynical. It's just being smart. If you are not extremely knowledgeable about automobiles, the best idea is to bring a friend with you who is. A slick salesman or even a private owner will tell you the good points and never tell you what's wrong with the car. If you don't know better, you won't be able to spot those things that they're leaving out! A car expert will check the things that are important, and you can sign those papers knowing that you have made a great deal.

Double Check Everything Before You Sign

When it comes to buying a used car, especially from a private seller, it is very important to make sure that there are no liens against the vehicle and that the person selling it to you is the registered owner of the car! Just because someone seems trustworthy, it's no guarantee that they are not trying to pass a stolen car off as their own! Do those title checks and check with your local vehicle registration authority.

Be Willing to Spend More for a Better Car

It's easy to think that the cheapest car on the lot is the best deal, but if you're taking it in for repairs a month later and it costs more than it would have cost for that better car you had your eye on, you'll understand the importance of this advice! Better to understand it now than later. Repairs can be extremely costly, and if you can find a properly maintained car on the lot that hasn't been in severe accidents that warranted major repairs, you will be much better off.

Sometimes it's a difference of a couple of thousand dollars. If the economy has hit you as hard as it has hit most lately, you may not think you can even entertain that large of a difference in cost. However, remember that you'll be paying that difference anyway, later on in repairs. The cheapest car on the lot is the cheapest for a reason.

...But Don't Overspend Either!

One of the biggest mistakes that people make nowadays is being tricked into more expensive cars by the salesman. Remember that most of these guys are working on commission, so of course they want to sell you on the most expensive options! Many times a car seems cheaper but the higher cost is hidden in the monthly payments. Do the math. You need to decide before you step foot in the dealership how much you can truly afford. Think ahead. If you realize months later that you cannot afford the payments, it will be a very difficult situation. Decide on an affordable price now and stick to it. You may have some money left over for a trip on a Limo or other luxury items.

In general, a used car that's two to four years old will cost you between $10,000 and $20,000. If you can afford a car in this price range, we recommend going to a new car dealership and asking them about trade-in vehicles that are certified to have only had one owner. These will be the highest quality used cars that you can find on the market, and will last you a good number of years if maintained properly.

If your price range is lower, between $5,000 and $10,000, you will be able to find a car that is 5 to 10 years old that's still in pretty good shape. In general the mileage will be high. These are the ones that you'll find at used car dealerships. Of course you've got to be much more careful when purchasing one of these as opposed to the certified trade-ins at the new car dealerships, but you'll save a substantial amount of money, and if you do your research as we mentioned above, you should be able to find a great car at a very good price.

If you buy a car from a private seller, many times they are much older cars in the $1,000 to $5,000 price range. Now and then you'll find a really great one that someone is just trying to get rid of in a hurry, but most of the time they are pretty run down and will cost a substantial amount of money to maintain and keep running. You generally won't find this price range at used car dealerships, but there are plenty around your neighborhood with for sale stickers in the windows, and you can find plenty more on Craig's List and eBay Motors!

Before You Buy, Get That Insurance Quote

The cost of insurance depends heavily on the make and model of the car that you buy. If you get those insurance quotes first, you won't have any nasty surprises! We recommend GEICO most highly, and you can easily get that quote online.

When High Mileage Is Too High

Car expert or not, you should know what mileage is simply too high. The truth is that the proper maintenance of the car is much more important than how many miles the previous owners put on it. However if the car has more than 200,000 miles on it, in general we would keep looking. Most people try to buy used cars with less than 100,000 miles on them, and the lower the mileage the better. Note that some sellers will tinker with the odometer and roll back the mileage. This is why a VinAudit report will be much more helpful than a simple glance at the odometer!

When Is An Old Car Too Old?

In general when purchasing a used car, you don't want to get one that is more than ten years old. The ones in the two to five year range are the ones that will give you the most bang for your buck. You will want to note that the model year is not necessarily the year the car was produced. A 2009 Civic may in fact have been brand new in 2010. To find out the actual year that the car was produced, check that vehicle history report.

Questions To Ask Before You Buy

There are a few basic yet essential questions that need to be asked before you sign those papers. Whether you're purchasing your car from a dealership or from a private seller, you will need to know these facts. Particularly if it's your first time buying a used car, you'll want to be aware of these questions. Don't be embarrassed to make a little "cheat sheet" to keep with you with these questions on it. You don't want to forget and leave any one of these out:

  • When and where was the car originally purchased?
  • How many previous owners have there been?
  • What is the current mileage on the car, and is it certain that the odometer has not been tampered with? (A title check done by YOU is the best way to be sure of this!)
  • Has the car been in any accidents whatsoever, and most importantly has it been in any serious accidents and undergone any major repairs as a result?
  • Accidents aside, what are the major repairs that the car has needed?
  • Get a look under the hood and under the car too! Even an amateur can tell if there is too much rust underneath. It's said that it's the rust, not the mileage, that kills our cars. And since we live in Michigan, the salt on the roads in the winter is the culprit for that rust. Make sure to look underneath yourself.
  • Are there any problems with the exterior? What about the interior? Have they done any Carpet Cleaning?
  • Be sure to ask where the car has been repaired and if they have complete service records.
  • Are there any liens? It's great to ask this question, but never trust the seller. Check with your local vehicle registration office to be sure.
  • Finally, what is the reason for selling the car? If the seller hesitates on this question, it may indicate that they're hiding some type of damage. Use your own judgment here.

Don't Just Buy. Negotiate.

When it comes to a used car, you can usually negotiate a better deal than the sticker price, whether you're at a dealership or working with a private seller. We have negotiated savings of over $1000 just by asking on that very first phone call. When you call to inquire about the car, for instance if the cost of the vehicle is listed at $12,999, simply state that you only have $11,500 or even $11,000 to pay and you were wondering if they would accept that price. Most sellers will say yes, and if they don't, you can still switch back and say, "Well, maybe I can scrape up the extra cash if it's in good enough condition. I'll come down and take a look at it anyway."

When it comes to negotiating that price, you will want to be specific about the "total price" as opposed to just the sticker price. There are always additional fees, at least when you're working with a dealership on the sale. Get the total price first, and then say, "I can only afford this much." Most sellers will agree to that as long as they believe you are serious about your offer. Once they have you on the phone or standing there on the lot, it's in their best interest to sell right then and there. Remember that you have the power in this situation. If they do say no, get that price from another seller and then ask them to match it. Very few will turn that down!

If you happen to get a salesperson who is rude or pushy, there is no reason to put up with that. There are thousands of used cars available in our state and plenty of car salesmen who will treat you with respect. Don't be rude in return. Just leave and find another more professional dealership. Never let them pressure you into anything.

Finally, no matter what, be sure that everything you have agreed to is detailed in writing before you sign anything! And read the contracts that you sign, including the fine print! That's the only way to truly protect yourself. If you feel that you aren't knowledgeable enough in contract law, then bring someone with you who is.

In Summary...

Consider this your cheat sheet that wraps up everything you just read into one convenient list. Feel free to print it and keep it with you during the car buying process!

  • A used car is better than a used car because most mistakes and defects will have already been fixed at the dealership while it was under warranty.
  • Also, you may not be able to afford all the fancy extras on a new car, but with a used car, you can get it fully loaded and still have money to spare.
  • Read up! There are plenty of worthwhile publications to read before you buy that used car, including Consumer Reports and other magazines with car reviews in them. Of course there's always the internet, and there is plenty of information available via a simple Google or Bing search.
  • Research the typical maintenance costs of your preferred make and model. In general a car made outside of the USA will cost much more to maintain than one made here in the states. The prices are much more affordable on those foreign luxury cars when they're used, but the overall cost really adds up when you consider the maintenance and the price of replacement parts.
  • Do a title check on There are other title check websites that are good, but VinAudit is the most comprehensive. Never trust the title check that is done by a dealership or private seller. They tend to go with the cheaper companies to save themselves money, and their reports may not be as accurate or complete!
  • When you get that title check, if it says the car was flooded, do not buy it. Cars that have been flooded with ocean water as a result of natural disasters such as hurricanes will corrode and rust, and ultimately fail much sooner than a car that has not been flooded. Cars that were damaged in Hurricane Katrina are still being sold around the country. Beware of these. It may look like a great deal on paper, but it's not!
  • Never trust the salesperson! Dealers and private sellers alike have an agenda to sell the car. Even the most honest person you know may cover up a few seemingly minor details in order to get the car off their hands. Ask all the important questions, and pay as much attention to the way they answer the questions as you do to the answers themselves. Most importantly, we'll say it again, do that title check! No report can claim to be one hundred percent accurate, but they are much more accurate than any information the seller will give you.
  • Check with your local vehicle registration authority to double check all the facts that the seller gave you, and most importantly to be sure that it's not a stolen car you're about to buy!
  • The cheapest car on the lot is generally not a good deal no matter how low the cost. It's the cheapest because it needs expensive repairs, and will ultimately cost as much as the better cars that you've got your eye on. If you can afford it, pay a couple thousand more for a car that's in better shape. If you don't, you'll still part with that couple thousand for repairs in the coming months.
  • Watch out for higher costs hidden in monthly payments or interest, and don't let the salesman talk you into a car that you cannot afford!
  • Before you buy the car, punch in the year, make, model, and other information at and get an insurance quote. Some cars are much more expensive to insure than others and you'll want to know that before you buy!
  • Look for cars that have less than 100,000 miles on the odometer, and do a title check to make sure that the mileage is accurate. The lower the better! Remember that a high mileage car with very little rust is a better choice than a low mileage car with lots of rust!
  • A car that is more than ten years old is probably not a good choice no matter what the cost. It will simply cost too much in repairs to keep it running. Note that the model number may not be the year it was produced.
  • Refer to the list above (under the heading Questions to Ask Before You Buy) and be sure to ask every question on that list. We're sure you can think of a few more to add to it as well! You can never be too cautious when it comes to buying your vehicle.
  • Finally, don't just accept the sticker price. You can almost always negotiate a lower price. You most likely should not expect to shave off any more than $1000 with your negotiations unless the car is in really bad shape, and if it's in that bad shape then you shouldn't buy it either way! If the seller is unwilling to negotiate, try getting a better price from another seller and then ask them to match the price. Very few will want to lose the sale!

And Now You're Ready...

Now that you're ready to buy your used car, you can use the list at the left of this page (scroll back up to the top and work your way down) of used car dealerships in Detroit. Of course you can also rely on Craigslist and eBay Motors as well as local newspaper classified ads if you'd prefer to find a good private seller in your neighborhood. With all of the the information you now possess, you're totally ready to make a wise decision without being pressured into overspending or taking ownership of a a car that will cost more in repairs than it did to purchase in the first place!