Buying a Used Car From a Dealer Tips

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What Should I Look for When Inspecting a Used Car?

Tip for Visual Inspection When Buying From Used Car Dealers

Before you even take the car for a test drive you should perform a visual inspection of the car, both inside and out, as part of your due diligence. You don't need a mechanic for this initial inspection. Remember, most used car dealers are honest, but it is up to you to protect yourself by being a proactive used car shopper.

Check under the Hood

  • Be sure that all fluid levels are adequate.
  • Be sure that the oil is clean.
  • Check the battery

Check the Tires for Even Wear.

  • Uneven wear may suggest a problem with the frame or vehicle suspension.

Inspect the Body

  • Look for any signs of rust, which is very difficult to repair and often must be replaced.
  • Notice any paint discoloration that may indicate bodywork following an accident.
  • Check head and tail lights, as well as signals.
  • Notice the color and odor from any smoke emitted when the car is started. If there is a burning odor or thick, black smoke, that may indicate a problem.

Go Over the Inside

  • Look for signs of water leakage or condensation (mold/mildew) that is not related to the air conditioning unit.
  • Check under the mats for damage as well.
  • Be sure locks, windows and safety belts work.

What Should I Know About Buying a Used Car

How to Buy a Used Car

Buying used cars is more common today than ever before. That's because the likelihood of getting a reliable car at a great price is very high. If you are interested in pre-owned car sales, here are some tips to get you started.

Determine How Much You Can Spend
Remember, owning a car requires more than making a monthly payment. Buyers should also consider all other associated costs of ownership to make the most financially sound decision.

Research All Cars in Your Price Range
Don't eliminate any used cars from the list until you've had a chance to learn about them. Research:

  • Reliability
  • Mileage
  • Insurance Costs
  • Consumer Satisfaction
  • Maintenance and Repair Costs
  • History of any recalls
  • Handling
  • Safety

The way a used car looks is important, but appearance shouldn't be considered apart from the above list. Take all factors together to come up with a list of possible choices and research these more in depth.

Look for Used Car Dealers that Carry the Cars You Are Considering.
Learn about the history of each vehicle before you take a test drive. Unfortunately, test drives cause many buyers to throw caution to the wind. Just because the car shines in the sun and handles well on the drive doesn't mean it is the best choice.

Why Buy a Used Car?

Advantages of Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car is a bargain on so many levels. Not only do you save on purchase costs you save on ownership costs, too.

Used Car Dealers Pass the Savings on to You

  • Some used car dealers get their inventory from trade-ins, others from purchases, auctions or some combination. Ultimately, the dealer's cost in obtaining the vehicle is lower than it would be for a new car because transportation is not a factor (the inventory is usually from local sources).
  • Buying a used car saves you money because it costs the dealer less to acquire and make the car available for sale.

Ownership is Usually Less Expensive

  • When you buy a car that is 3 to 5 years old you can usually get it for around 50 percent of the original MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price). The bonus – the used car has five to seven reliable driving years and:
    • Your insurance and registration costs will be less expensive than for a new car.
    • You can still purchase an extended warranty to offset any repairs (just be sure to work with a reputable provider and review the terms of your agreement before you sign on the dotted line).

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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.