In this economy many people are choosing to buy a used car instead of a new one, and for good reason. After all, a quality used car costs a lot less than a new one of the same make, even if it has very low mileage on it. The problem is that most people are unsure about whether a particular used car is a good deal or not because there are so many variables involved. Here are a few tips that can help you feel more confident about your next used car purchase:
1 – If you’re thinking about buying from a dealer, ask if the car comes with a warranty or guarantee. If not, walk away. Any used car dealership should be willing to stand behind the vehicles they sell, even if it’s only for 90 days.
2 – Ask if an extended warranty is available for the car. I’m usually not a huge fan of extended warranties, but they can be a good investment when buying a pre-owned vehicle. Be sure to ask exactly what the warranty will cover as well as its cost, and then read the contract before agreeing to purchase it. Some pre-owned automobile extended warranties have so many exclusions that they simply aren’t worth the cost and trouble.
3 – If you’re thinking about buying a used car from a private party, the first question you should ask is why they are selling it, especially if the car is virtually new with extremely low mileage. Most people who are selling a practically new used car are doing so because they have had problems with it. Lemons do exist you know. If the answer you are given makes little or no sense, say “Thanks for your time” and walk away.
4 – Before purchasing any used car whether it be from a dealer or a private party, ALWAYS insist on taking it to a mechanic you trust for a thorough mechanical evaluation. A qualified, independent mechanic can clue you in to any lurking or potential problems with the vehicle that the average person would never be able to spot. The typical fee for this service is very reasonable, and in my opinion it’s money well spent.
4 – Ask to see a CARFAX report for any used car you’re thinking about buying. If the owner/dealer refuses or is unable to provide one, you can purchase one yourself at the CARFAX website. All you need is the VIN number. The CARFAX report will provide you with the car’s history including the number of previous owners, any major mechanical problems the car has had in the past, any accidents it has been involved in, etc. In other words, a wealth of useful information for helping you determine whether you’re about to buy a boatload of trouble or not.
5 – And finally, a word about safety: If you’re planning to go check out a car you found listed in the newspaper, on Craigslist, or on some other “classified” venue, DO NOT go alone. Take someone with you, and once you get there be extremely careful while you’re in the company of the seller. DO NOT enter the seller’s home or agree to let him/her ride along with you on the test drive. Enough said.
While buying any used car is always a gamble of sorts, these common sense tips can help take a lot of the risk and apprehension out of the process. Just remember to always be smart, be safe, and never allow yourself to be gullible!
About the author: Carl Kinnison worked in the retail automotive industry for over 20 years before retiring and beginning a very successful second career as a writer and consultant.
Photo credit: Dave McClure