How to Buy A Used Car

Buying a Used Car? Here’s how

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3 Feb 2012 | 59 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds Buying a used car means more than just kicking the tires, that’s for darned sure–especially today. Before you do anything, you need to do your homework, of course. 2010 honda accord crosstour It won’t hurt you to check with friends and co-workers, especially if, after doing your homework, you discover that the car you’re interested in already is owned by one of them.  But they are  surely not the only, or the best source of information.  Do as much research as you can.  It pays to know as much as you can about the car:  Its reputation, how it drives, what auto writers thought about it as a new car, how it competes in its particular market segment, etc.  Our favorite sources of information? Why,, of course.  But don’t overlook, a terrific site for both consumers and enthusiasts. And, for Kelley Blue Book, has been respected and valued for years thanks to their expertise and treasure trove of information on both new and used cars. There’s also the car magazines and buff books, but we find that the best ones are Motor Trend, Automobile and Road & Track. Once you do that, you can then decide whether you want to buy your car through a private seller, or a dealership.  Each has its advantages–and its disadvantages. With a private seller, you have the opportunity to question him or her directly about the reliability of the car, any problems, what they thought about the car overall, and what their reasons for selling the car are now. It might not hurt to ask for repair records if they have them, any receipts they might have showing the costs of repairs, etc. Generally speaking, the cars from private sellers are likely not to be reconditioned, so you ‘ll have a better sense of the real picture of the car’s condition and where the problems with the car, if any, lie.  And of course, you will  probably not have any service warranty from a private owner to rely upon if there are problems when you leave the owner’s home with the car. And the private owner may or not give you a bargain price, too. Dealers generally make repairs and do reconditioning of cars and trucks before they put them up for sale, so that they can attract more buyers. Dealers also offer certified programs in which you know that an exhaustive program has been done to bring the car up to snuff before you buy it. Dealers also offer warranties, however long or short, for the cars and trucks that they sell to consumers. If you can get it, find information on fuel economy, recalls or safety investigations before you buy the car. And of coursel, you’ll want to know the background and history of any car you will buy.  You certainly don’t want to unknowingly buy a car that is flood damaged or has been in a serious accident.Some good sites  to make use of are,, and So what do you do once you’ve done your homework? Lord knows there are thousands upon thousands of car brands, makes and models there, and unless you’re immortal or have more time than sense, you’d better pick no more than three or four models fromn which to choose. What should you think about? Price, of course.  But remember that  say, $10,000 to $15,000 will buy a wide variety of cars. You might want to buy a fairly new Toyota Camry that’s only two or three years old, or you may want to go for it and buy a used BMW or Infiniti that’s several years older for about the same money, but one heck of a lot more glamour and driving pleasure. It’s all up to you. Once you’ve settled on a particular model, try several of that model from several different sources so you can compare, contrast, and see if the mechanical or technical problem that y0u found on one example is also present–or not– on the others. You’ll also be able to pick the example or model that is in the best shape, or maybe have a few bonus pieces of eqiupment for the same price as the others that don’t have that same equipment.       If you have not already checked the histories of the several models you have identified by now, make absolutely certain that you do so now.  There are so many  things that can happen to cars and so many ways you can be deceived, that it’s best that you chheck those records out before you buy. And what are some of those many problems that can go wrong? Let’s see.   There are cars that have been flood damaged in Hurricane Katrina or some other disaster. Then there are cars that have been in crack-ups. Then there’s that old favorite– rolled back odometers.  Then there are cars that have been through heavy abuse or used by a series of different drivers with different driving habits, like rental cars. And that’s all just scratching the surface of potential problems. So go to any of the websites we’ve mentioned above and use the car’s vehicle identification number–often found in the corner of windshields, for instance.  And by the way, don’t exchange any money with either a dealer or a private owner to hold the car for you. If they ask for it, walk away–fast.  You first need to get the car checked by a reliable garage and/or service mechanic, and be sure the inspection is a thorough one. You may have to pay $100 or so to do this, but that’s a heck of a lot better than buying something that costs thousands, only to have it break down on you within a week of ownership. Have them check, for starters, the engine and its main components, the brakes, the fuel lines, the exhaust system, the safety equipment, the seats, all lights, all controls, the air conditioning and heating, the audio system, the navigation system and other components. And as we said, the aforementioned were all part of a short list.  There’s plenty more. Now you’re ready for paperwork. But you still need to be careful.  Maybe now more so than ever. If you buy from a private owner, make sure there are no registered liens against the vehicle and that the person who signs the Bill of Sale is the actual owner of the car. Check with the Vehicle Registration Authorities to make sure the car has not been stolen. Buying from a dealer? Caution is still advised. Better read the warranty policy and all the papers including the fine print very carefully. If it’s a “Certified” used car, you’d be wise to check exactly what items were checked off and approved because sometimes the car might have a history of an accident in the past, come with a poorly maintained engine and still be Certifiable.      You also need to find out if the remaining original warranty will be transferred into your name. Different car companies do it differently. Now then.  How do you know if you’re paying a good price for the car? Once more, do your homework. Check with reputable sites like which has an extensive treasure trove of information on pricing and accessories of a wealth of new cars, or go to, probably one of the most respected sites around for used and new car info, and also a partner of Any prices that you find in any of the used car price guides on the newsstands are only giving you an average of prices.  The price you will have to pay depends upon such factors as the equipment on the car, rarity of the car, whether it’s a limited edition model,  the overall condition, whether it has low or high mileage, etc.       Hopefully, after you have done all this, you will have the car of your dreams–and peace of  mind, too.

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