The Complete Internationals’ Guide to Buying a Used Car in the US

If you have decided that it’s time for you to buy a used car, you may be overwhelmed with the process of going through a dealership. The negotiation process is enough to keep even the most courageous driver at home!

the complete internationals' guide to buying a used car in the us

When dealership prices and antics aren’t getting you the used car you need, you still have another option – EVEN if you need to refinance your car.

It’s time to consider buying from a private seller.

For this reason, we are offering the Complete Internationals’ Guide to Buying a Used Car in the US, where you will learn about the process of buying a used car through a private seller, and how to refinance your car to get the best deal that works for you. At the end of the post, you will see an example from start to finish of the car buying process.

Used cars are a good deal. In general, getting a used car is a great way to save money. The value of a car depreciates, or lowers, quite quickly. As soon as the new car drives off the lot, the price tag and overall value of the car decreases.

Simply purchasing a used vehicle that is one to three years old can save you a lot of money over a brand-new model.

Why should you purchase your next car from a private seller?

 A private seller is a person who wants to sell their old vehicle, usually because they want to purchase a new one.

While you do need to be more careful purchasing from a private seller to make sure you get an accurate history of the car, you can save a lot of money, for a few different reasons:

  • No pressure: Generally speaking, private sellers are most interested in striking a fair deal for their car to put towards their next one. Dealers, on the other hand, make commission off of their sales. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that affect what the dealer is able to offer you for the price.
  • No skills…usually: Odds are, the person you are buying a used car from has the same level of negotiating know-how that you do. Compared to skilled dealership salespeople, the buying process can be much less stressful, with fewer games involved.
  • What you see is what you get: without fancy add-ons and empty perks to tack on to or maintain a price, you’re likely to get a lower ticket price.

The best tool in any car-buying journey is the research you do. Make sure you get an accurate history of the vehicle, and do your research on fair prices by using a trusted source like Kelly’s Blue Book.

Once you’re prepared to buy a used car through a private seller, you need to figure out how to pay for it. You have two options.

  1. The first is paying cash in full. Many people pay for a car through a private seller in cash because they don’t know they have other options. For many, this means settling for a lower price tag due to cash flow.
  2. The other option which can be done before or after you purchase a used car from a private seller.

What is refinancing?

When you refinance your car, you are getting a second loan to pay for your first loan in a more affordable way.

Purchasing a car at a dealership usually comes with the option of financing. While it may leave with the car you love, the interest rates can be very high! Refinancing can be a great option to help you lower your interest rate, and your monthly payments as well. You can pay off your loan quicker, or just make your payments more manageable for you when you refinance.

What happens if you’ve already bought your car from a private seller? Let’s take a look at some scenarios.


Scenario 1: You are shopping around for a used car, and haven’t decided if you’re going to buy from a private seller or dealer.

the complete internationals' guide to buying a used car in the usA good way to avoid high dealership prices, or ensure you can get a loan to cover a car bought from a private seller, is to get pre-approved for a car loan first.

This means you will submit your information to a private lender before entering a negotiation process with a seller, and they will review it to see if you are eligible for a car loan through them. This can be a bank or a private company such as Lendbuzz.

Why? If you are pre-approved, then you will know how much money and at what interest rate you can receive in order to purchase your car, whether you want to do it at a dealership or through a private seller. In most cases, this will help you get a better interest rate, and will also help you set a budget.

Once you have your pre-approval, get shopping! Get in touch with the owner of the car you’ve been eyeing, and negotiate with your loan number in mind.

*Remember: Many lenders require you to have a social security number and/or credit history in the US.

As an international student in the US, it can be challenging to find a bank that understands your situation. A lender that caters to internationals in the US, like Lendbuzz, can help you get a car loan by evaluating different information (and help you build credit in the process!)

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Scenario 2: You bought a car using a loan from a bank, or dealership financing.

If you’ve already begun to make monthly payments on your car loan, then refinancing as most people think of it can be a good option for you.

In order to refinance, you will need to find a lender that offers that service. Some banks or companies may give out car loans, but may not be involved in refinancing, which is the process of buying the loan from you in order to change your monthly payments.

Why? As an international student, it is important that you find a lender who understands your situation in the US.


If you took out a private loan from a bank or dealership to pay for your car, and don’t have a social security number or credit history, you may have been penalized with a high interest rate.

Turning to a lender who specializes in helping foreign nationals secure car loans and build credit can help you get a better rate on your loan. This helps you lower your monthly payment, or pay off your loan faster, all while building credit.

the complete internationals' guide to buying a used car in the us

Scenario 3: You paid for a car in cash from a private seller.

The car is paid for, the transaction is complete, and you’re driving your new used car all over town. But now you wish you had financed it.

You still have the option to re-finance the car, even if it has been paid in full.


Some companies, such as Lendbuzz offer cash out refinancing. This means that while you have paid for your car in full already, the lender will be able to give you back some of the value of your car in cash, in exchange for monthly payments with interest.

For example, let’s imagine that you’ve purchased a car from a private seller and decide to refinance after with Lendbuzz.

You will need your car title (the piece of paper that says that you are the owner), and an auto loan application. Once you’ve been approved for the cash back loan, Lendbuzz would become the lien holder, effectively the owner of the car, until the loan is paid back.

the complete internationals' guide to buying a used car in the us

Why? There are multiple reasons why anyone might choose to refinance a vehicle they have already paid for.

As an international student, you may consider it wise to think of your credit score in the US if you have any intention on staying here long term. Taking out a car loan at a fair interest rate will help you build credit if you pay it responsibly, helping you prepare for your future: loans, apartment rentals, credit cards and mortgages all require credit history!

This is also a good option if you are having cash flow issues, and need some more money in hand. If you bought a car in cash because you thought it was your only option, a Cash Out Loan can be a good way to get much needed money back into your pocket.

Buying your used car doesn’t limit your financing options; do your research, apply for the financing that meets your needs and future goals, and get the car!

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