Whether you're looking for a reliable used car dealership near you or an individual seller, there are certain things you should look out for. These tips help you narrow your options and find the best car for your needs.

Take your top picks out for a test drive. Try to drive hard, make full turns, listen for odd sounds, and bring someone with a second opinion.

Vehicle Inventory

Car dealerships acquire vehicles in a variety of ways. Many of these are trade-ins from customers who bring their vehicles to the service department for servicing or at the end of their lease. Regardless of how they come to the lot, all cars are subject to the same inspection and must meet the same requirements. 

A dealership aims to make the most money on each vehicle on its lot. As such, it must work to streamline reconditioning, photography, and other steps so that it can sell cars quickly. Otherwise, the dealership will be stuck with costly stale or excess inventory. To do this, the dealer must focus on its market demographic. Excellent software will help to manage this in a way that aligns sales with inventory and consumer demand.

Vehicle History Reports

A reliable used car dealership like my car Ottawa will offer vehicle history reports for all the cars they sell. These company reports can give insight into how a car has been used and treated. They can also help you avoid red flags like rolled-back odometers.

For example, you'll want to look for a report showing how many car owners a car has. If multiple people have owned a vehicle quickly, it may have been abused and neglected. Similarly, a vehicle deemed a salvage title should be avoided as it could require extensive repairs.

A car history report will also list maintenance and service records. You can use this information to leverage during negotiations and get a fair price for the vehicle you're buying. Also, remember to bring the vehicle for a full inspection before signing on the dotted line.

Customer Reviews

A reliable dealership will have several customer reviews available. These reviews are an excellent leveling ground for customers and provide an honest assessment of the dealership's standard of service.

While positive online reviews are essential, having a solid plan to handle negative feedback is equally important. Many dealerships use services that help them respond to online reviews quickly and efficiently, addressing the specific concerns a shopper raises.

Dealerships should also be prepared to work with various credit profiles, including those with bad credit. They should be willing to tailor a financing package that meets the needs of a buyer. Whether through a traditional loan from a bank or a buy here, pay here program for those repairing their credit, and trustworthy dealers will find a way to make things work. They'll also be transparent about their financing fees. If you see extra costs like paint and fabric protection, rust-proofing, or extended warranties listed on a car's price tag, ask about the cost of these options separately.


Dealerships often offer financing in addition to selling vehicles. This can be convenient and can help you close the sale quickly. However, it's a good idea to understand your financing options before you head to the dealership. For example, you should know if the dealer offers manufacturer-sponsored low-rate loans or incentive programs for a specific vehicle. This information can give you leverage when negotiating with the dealer. You can also check with your bank to see if they offer competitive rates lower than the dealer's.

Dealers will typically ask you to fill out a credit application that will be submitted to several lenders. Then they can negotiate your loan's annual percentage rate and other terms. Some dealers even add a markup to the lender's offer as compensation for their role. You can avoid this by bringing in pre-approved bank or credit union financing. You can also ask the dealer about any additional fees included in the quote.