4 – Locate Candidates

Find Cars and Make a List

Here you are at Step 4! It is time to begin searching for your new used car.

Saving Time

Doing things in an organized fashion can save tons of time and bring high quality results.  It is worthwhile to properly prepare.

Good old fashioned pen and paper work great for this.  Start by printing the table below, then begin searching.  There are lots of places to look.  Sellers are usually described as Owners (“individuals”), Dealers, and Dealerships.  These classes of sellers are defined as follows.  It is important to understand the differences among them so you can set proper expectations for your car buying experience.


Owners, in the context of car shopping, are the persons who actually drive the car and are most familiar with it.  When doing Internet searches, the appropriate classification labels are either “individual” or “owner”.  If you want to ask very specific questions about the particular vehicle, this is the best seller classification.  However, there are also cases where family members are selling the car for someone else, so they might not be able to answer many of your questions about the car’s history or behavior.  Owners will sell cars as-is, no warranties, all-sales-final; and full cash payment at time of sale.  When buying a used car from an Owner, be sure to first verify that they have a clear title on hand.


A Dealer is someone who acquires cars for the purpose of reselling them.  Note that for the purpose of car-shopping definition, we differentiate between “Dealers” and “Dealerships”.  They usually possess a state-provisioned automobile dealer’s license.   They might or might not have a lot where they store and display their vehicle inventory.  Dealers who have only a few cars, on a limited basis might actually drive the cars they advertise for sale.  However, Dealers should not be expected to know very many specifics about a particular vehicle or its history.  Dealers usually will sell cars as-is, no warranties, all-sales-final; and full cash payment at time of sale; sometimes they might offer a 30-day warranty as well as take credit card payments for a service fee.  When buying a used car from a Dealer, be sure to first verify that they have a clear title on hand, as well as asking what the title status is.  Be extra cautious when shopping from a Dealer, and do not make any assumptions.  It is important to clarify any questions and expectations.


Within Dealerships there are basically two groups: Large Dealerships, and small Dealerships; there are a few differences between them.  A Dealership is defined as an establishment with a dedicated location(s) and staff where normal and ongoing vehicle sales are conducted.

Dealerships perform marketing through brand name and reputation.  Generally speaking, they are known for being respectable and trustworthy, for offering a wide selection, and providing warranties to their newer vehicles.  Usually their vehicles are at least a bit more expensive than the same ones offered for sale from Owners and Dealers.  Conversely, they are perceived to provide greater confidence and security to car buyers.

Usually large Dealerships sell both new and used (“pre-owned”) cars, while small Dealerships may sell only used cars.  Upscale and luxury brands such as BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, will offer “certified” used vehicles with full warranties.  Generally speaking, Dealership pricing will always be higher than buying from Owners and Dealers because of the fore-stated reasons.

Learn more about the pros and cons of the different seller types at “3 – Set Budget & Financial”.

Where to Find Used Cars

Sources for finding sellers include:

  • Friends & Family
  • Big dealerships
  • Small dealerships
  • Online (a mix of owners/dealers/dealerships)
    •    Craigslist
    •    Auto Trader
    •    eBay
    • Newspaper classifieds
    • For sale sign

Using the following example, list the vehicles you want to inquire about.

ID Vehicle Candidate Seller’s Info (name, area of town, phone number, email address, ad posting link, etc…) My NotesEx.
ex. 2001 Lexus ES 300. 98k mi. $12,250. Phil Collins. North Hollywood. 310-555-1212. Craigslist.org Ad posting says he must sell by end of month. Engine was replaced last fall. $1,000 above my budget, but see if he will drop price.

Next step is to reach out and get the specifics on your vehicle candidates: “5 – Inquire”.