BUYING A USED CAR
a used vehicle can save you a lot of money. However, when you buy a
used vehicle, you may be just getting someone else’s “problem”.
Therefore, it is critical to find out how reliable a particular vehicle
is. New vehicles lose on average 30% of their value within the first
year alone. With each succeeding year, they continue to lose value.
You can use this fact of life to your advantage and save yourself a
bundle. For example, suppose you’re interested in a certain make/model
that sells new for $23,000.00. If you buy the same make/model that is
a year old, you’ll pay (on average) somewhere around $16,100.00 …
a savings of $6900.00! If you look at the same make/model that is say
two years old, you’ll save even more. Also know that most new vehicles
come with at least a 3 year parts and service warranty that is transferable.
So, for example, if you buy a two year old vehicle, you’ll still be
able to use what is remaining on the vehicle’s warranty.
WHAT IT’S WORTH
Before you begin shopping for a used vehicle, you must have a good idea
as to what the certain year, make, and model you’re interested in is
worth. A good start for determining this is to check either Edmund’s
Used Car Prices or VMR Used Car Prices (both available at most bookstores
or online). Also, it’s important to check your local newspaper’s classified
ads for any used vehicles for sale which match the year, make, and model
you’re looking for. Call each seller and ask more about the vehicle.
The more sellers you talk with, the better grasp you’ll have of what
these certain vehicles are selling for.
SAVVY WHEN IT COMES TO USED CAR DEALERS
There is almost no doubt you’ll spend more for a used vehicle if you
buy from a used car dealer as opposed to a private party. Some used
car dealers are pros at deception and will do everything possible to
inflate the sale price of a used vehicle. Further, some used car dealers
have even been known to roll back the odometer so they may ask more
for the vehicle. Certainly not all used car dealers practice deceptive
or fraudulent tactics. Many are indeed honest and run a legitimate business.
However, you as a consumer should be aware of what sometimes goes on
“behind the scenes”.
TO ASK THE SELLER
The expression “let the buyer beware” applies best when it
comes to used vehicles. Ask the seller the following questions in order
to learn more about the vehicle…
is the vehicle being sold?
2. Are you the original owner?
3. Where was the vehicle serviced?
4. Do you have all service records/receipts?
5. Has it had any major repairs?
6. Does it need any repairs?
7. Was it ever in an accident?
8. Was the oil changed every 3,000 miles?
9. Has it had all scheduled maintenance?
THOROUGHLY INSPECT THE VEHICLE YOURSELF
The interior gives you clues as to the vehicle’s value and condition.
If the interior has been neglected, the engine has probably been neglected
as well. Here is a checklist (Note: some vehicles may not have one or
more of these items)…
and carpet clean?
– Door latches work?
– Doors open and close smoothly?
brake, and clutch pedals work well?
– All windows work?
– All locks work?
– All gauges light up and work?
– Horn works?
– Parking brake works?
– Rear window defogger work?
manual in glove box?
Exterior – Inspect the exterior very carefully. You should be able to
tell if the vehicle has ever been in an accident (even if the owner
says it hasn’t). Always make your inspection during the daytime in order
to see dings clearly.
carefully for dings and dents
– Check muffler and exhaust pipes for cracks
– Check body for rust
– Turn signals work?
– Brake lights work?
– Backup lights work?
– Headlights and brights work?
– Check for oil and transmission fluid leaks
– Check tire tread depth
windows for cracks
– Make sure jack and spare tire are in good shape
– Check inside of tail pipe for a black, gummy substance
– During the road test, check for the following things. Make sure you
drive both in city and highway conditions.
sure engine starts quickly
– Make sure vehicle does not pull to one side while driving
– Make sure oil light does not come on
sure “Check Engine” light does not come on
– Make sure engine does not make a pinging or knocking sound
sure transmission shifts smoothly
– Make sure all gears work
– Make sure no unusual smoke is coming from exhaust
sure engine idles evenly
– Make sure brakes stop vehicle well
– Make sure brakes don’t grind or squeal
– Is engine’s
power what you’d expect for this vehicle?
– Air Conditioning works?
– Heater works?
the speedometer work?
– Make sure temperature gauge does not go beyond the middle marker
– Make sure engine does not “run on” when you shut it off
A MECHANIC INSPECT THE VEHICLE
If the vehicle passes your inspection, ask the seller if he wouldn’t
mind you taking the vehicle to a local garage for a mechanical evaluation
inspection. Many mechanics charge somewhere around $120.00 for such
an inspection; this will tell you what problems (if any) the vehicle
has. Spending for this inspection may seem like a waste but it may save
you a lot of grief if the mechanic tells you the vehicle is near its
end or not what the seller claims. Also, another benefit is that a mechanic
can pretty well determine if the vehicle’s odometer reading is consistent
with the condition of the engine and transmission. In other words, he’ll
let you know if the odometer has been rolled back.
THE SELLER FOR SERVICE RECORDS
Carefully inspect all service records/receipts so that you know what
type of problems (if any) the vehicle has had in the past. If the seller
tells you he doesn’t have any records of past work done, you should
be very suspicious. Either the seller is lying to you in order to hide
something or he has neglected the vehicle by not bothering to have needed
service done (including regular maintenance work such as oil changes).