One question frequently posed by prospective used car buyers is "How can I can find a used car that has only had one previous owner?"
The reason the question about one-owner used cars is raised is they usually have better track records. Maintenance records usually exist and there are no nagging questions about why the vehicle may have crossed state lines a couple times in a relatively short period.
[Used cars that cross state lines frequently in a short period may be getting their titles washed so previous damage can be hidden or salvage titles can be erased. You need not be as concerned if the two states border each other. For instance, seeing a car go from Brattleboro, Vt., to Keene, N.H., to Greenfield, Mass., in two years wouldn't be cause for concern because they are within 20 miles of each other.]
Cars.com and Carfax have made it easier to conduct the search for one-owner used cars because Cars.com allows you to specifically look only for used cars that have a free Carfax report with their listings.
You're going to have to do a little digging to find out the information. Start by going to the Cars.com website. The used cars search tool is front and center on the homepage of the Cars.com website, which features listings from newspapers around the country (and in fact is owned by a collection of newspaper companies.) Select the make and model car you want.
[By the way, this trick is not going to come in handy if you are looking for a certified pre-owned car. They have warranties that are going to provide you coverage and, usually, a dealership goes to great lengths, along with the manufacturer that backs the warranty, to make sure the car is in good working order and has a clean title.]
Cars.com is going to allow you to narrow your search geographically at first along with the maximum price you want to pay. Click on the search used button and a results page is going to come up.
For my search, I selected a Hyundai Sonata within 50 miles costing less than $12,000. Seventy-one results came up.
Go to the left-hand side to narrow your search. Scroll down all the way toward the bottom of the column where you will see Free Carfax report. Clicking on that narrowed my search down to 34. I could have further defined my search parameters by price, too.
You also have the option of using the additional keywords of "one owner" (and make sure you match all words). But this isn't going to produce free Carfax reports.
It's going to take you a few minutes, but start clicking through the free Carfax reports that come up. The Carfax report will open in a new tab. Right at the top of the page (next to the annoyingly cute Car Fox) should be the phrase Carfax One-Owner Vehicle.
Go back to your Cars.com search page and click on the save button on your listing. You now have a list of one-owner used cars in your geographical area that you can then peruse at your leisure for possible purchase.
Some things to keep in mind:
- One-owner used cars are not automatically all cream puffs.
- You will need a pre-purchase vehicle inspection done by a professional. Look at the bright side. You didn't have to pay for a Carfax report. Apply the savings to the inspection price.
- Keep all your paperwork from the Carfax report in case a problem does appear with the title. Carfax does offer guarantees.
- If you are at all uncomfortable with the purchase process or have any doubts, walk away from the transaction. That little voice in your head is usually right in these matters.