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  • USED CAR BUYING TIPS

    As with buying a new car, there are many do's and don'ts when it comes to buying a used car. Buying a used car can be a lot trickier than buying a new car. When buying a used car there are more concerns about what may already be breaking or what's already been fixed. Another concern with buying a used car is a warranty. Over half of the used cars out there today are being sold "as is". Buying an "as is" car is very risky. Once you hand over that money and sign your name on the dotted line, that car is your problem no matter what happens. An "as is" car has no warranty (hence the name). If you buy this car you agree that you are buying the car "as is" and that the seller is not liable for anything wrong once you take possession. This can be very dangerous and costly.

    Not all aspects of buying a used car are bad. Used cars can be the smartest way to go sometimes. If you are living on limited means, a used car is a great idea if bought outright. If you are not going to finance the used car, you will only have to get liability insurance which is much cheaper than full coverage which is required when financing any car. Another bonus of a used car is that a used car won't have all the added fees attached to the price like a new car would. When buying a new car, the dealership adds fees like cleaning, shipping, and many more. A used car, even when bought from a lot, will not have the majority of these fees.

    By following our simple steps, you can lower the risk of buying the wrong car that may fall apart and become a money pit for you.

    Fool-proof steps to buying a used car:

    Deciding how much you can afford to spend on your used car:

    Step 1: Create a budget for yourself so you can see exactly what you have and what you don't have to spend. Creating a budget can save you time and money because you'll know exactly what you're working with. Your budget should provide you with the following information:

    a. What you can afford to spend on a car in total.
    b. How much money you have for a down payment.
    c. A monthly payment you can afford.

    Step 2: Get a copy of your credit report. This is a very important step. When you go into a car dealership, you do not want the dealer knowing more about your credit than you do. If you have your credit report and you know what's on it, you'll know what they might try to throw at you. A dealer could give you a price on a car and then call you a few days later and tell you that a bad credit report is going to cause a rise in the amount they quoted you. If you don't know you're credit history, you won't be able to fight back against this. Most credit agencies can get you a copy of you report for $6 - $12 that same day. Be sure to take it with you when you go to look at you new car and talk to the dealer. (This step is unnecessary if buying from a private owner.)

    Finding the used car for you:

    In finding a used car, there are plenty of options of where to buy from. The first option would be a new-car dealership. These cars are most often the trade-ins from new car puchases. Most people, when buying a new car, trade-in their old car so most new-car dealerships will have a large selection. Most new car dealerships will have the cars inspected by their mechanical department and some of the used cars will even have warranties. These cars can be bought outright or can be financed through the dealership (if you qualify for financing).

    The second option would be a used car lot. These lots vary in accountability and credibility. These lots will have a wide assortment of cars to choose from so if you're looking for something specific or something that's hard to find, this would be a good place to look. Most cars on these lots are "as is". There is financing available at most of these lots but it is normally offered at a high interest rate. A smart idea is to get all promises and/or guarantees in writing from the dealer before you sign anything or hand over any money.

    The third option would be a rental car company. A majority of rental car companies will sell their older model cars once they have reached a certain mileage. These cars will most likely have high mileage and will have been used by numerous people. This can be a downfall but they will also come with service records, which is a plus. With this you will know how the car has been maintained. Financing is offered at some rental car company owned lots. enterprise.com will normally have a large selection of used rental cars available to buy.

    The fourth option would be auctions. An auction usually consists of repossessed and towing yard left behinds. Auctions are a difficult place to try and buy a used car. Before an auction they will normally have an open lot so you can look at the cars that will be auctions but none of them state starting prices for the auction and you can't test drive them or even start them most of the time. Used car dealers will make up the majority of the people bidding on the cars so getting a good deal won't be easy. Some auctions will have financing (government auctions) but most will insist on full payment up front and some insist on cash payment before you can touch the car. This is not a good idea for buying a used car.

    The fifth option would be private sellers. Private sellers are usually easy to find. Classified newspaper ads, car trader publications, and Internet classified postings are usually packed full of private owners trying to sell their used cars. There are also parking lots in most towns where privately sold used cars will be parked in a row facing the street with the prices and phone number of the contact person posted in the window. When buying a used car from a private seller, be sure you are ready to take the car for a test drive, look at the interior, exterior, and engine, and to ask questions. Prepare all of your questions before you go to see the car and make a list if you think you won't remember all of your questions. You might also want to ask your questions over the phone when you call to make an appointment to see the car. This will cut out a lot of unnecessary trips to see these cars if you know ahead of time that it is not what you are looking for. Here are some examples of what you might want to ask:

    1. Asking price.
    2. What is the lowest offer you are willing to accept? or Is your price firm?
    3. Are you the original owner? (If not, where did you buy the car?)
    4. Color of the car.
    5. Description of the car.
    6. What work has been done to the car? (New parts, service records, etc.)
    7. Has the car been in any accidents (no matter how small)?
    8. Why are you selling your car?
    9. Are there any potential problems that you know off? (I.E. the transmission has been diagnosed with 3 months to live)


    With almost all private sellers, there will be no warranty and no financing directly through the private owner. You may be able to get a loan from a bank before purchasing but then the financing rules may not apply.

    Picking the best used car for you.

    Step 1: Ask yourself what you need and what you are looking for. Make sure the used car you are thinking about buying is going to be the best car for your needs. Here is a sample list of questions to determine what you need in a used car:

    Do you go on a great deal of road trips?
    Do you need a lot of cargo room?
    How many passengers do you have in your car on a regular basis?
    Which do you prefer, manual or automatic?
    Which do you need: 2, 4, or all wheel drive?
    Do you go off-roading?
    How long is your daily commute to work and back?
    Does the seat adjust (if you are shorter or taller and need to adjust)?
    Do you need cup holders in the car?
    Is leg room for your passengers an issue?
    Does the trunk provide sufficient room?
    Does it have a AM/FM, tape player or CD player?
    What is the car's top speed?

    Step 2: Protect yourself by thoroughly checking on the used car you want to buy. Be sure to get a vehicle history report on the car. This report will tell you if the car was totaled, wrecked, or stolen and can be obtained by using the VIN number. Also look over the car and make sure that all the VIN numbers you can find are the same within the car. The VIN number is normally ingraved or on a sticker in numerous places in the car (inside the doors, the dash, the trunk, engine, and/or quarter panels).

    Step 3: Avoid the potential problems. Cars that are over four years old or have more than 15,000 miles per year are a problem waiting to happen. Even the best maintained cars will break down internally with time and over usage. If the car has been expertly maintained and you have proof of that (service records) than the mileage issue can be flexible. Try to avoid cars that are over five years old and have more than 50,000 miles on them.

    Step 4: Once you have found the car you are looking for, make sure to get any promises in writing and if you can get an extended warranty for a good price, it is a wise investment. Just make sure there are no dumby clauses in the warranty and read over it very well. Sites such as SmartAutoWarranty.com can help you find the right kind of warranty for your needs. If you have any questions, ask them before you sign/buy.

    Buying a used car can be a very tricky process but if you are careful and take your time, you will be very happy with your car. Don't rush into a used car because it could end up costing you so much in repairs that you would have been better off buying a brand new car that was more expensive.