One highlight in most people’s lives is driving off in their brand spanking new automobile. It’s an exhilarating feeling. It’s also a big moment because in that very instance, that brand spanking new car loses a big chunk of its value, which is the difference between the retail price you paid, and the car’s wholesale value. That’s typically thousands gone in an instant.
That’s why some car buyers will choose to shop around for a used car. You can save yourself that steep initial drop in value. More importantly, you get a car that runs just as well, is just as dependable, and looks and feels as good as that new car, if you play your cards right.
The one pitfall of buying a used car, it’s the risk of buying a lemon, a junker, call it what you want, you get the point: the wrong car. Used car dealers, after all, has one of the worst reputations in business. This holds true for individual people selling their cars through newspapers, Web auctions and classified sites, or with the old-fashioned signs in their car windows. The saying, “Buyer Beware,” has more meaning when buying a new car.
There are also some real deals out there when buying a used car. We’re talking about quality vehicles that will perform beyond your expectations at a low price. Here’s how to find these perfectly used vehicles, this by knowing the used car dealer tricks they try to pull on you.
1. Get a second opinion – Used car dealers will bombard you with every objective under the sun to sell you on a car. Don’t believe a word they say. Instead, find someone you know, whether a neighbor, a colleague, a family member, or a friend, who owns the same make and model of the vehicle, and ask them for their opinion.
2. Do a background check – One of the most unethical, but legal, things someone can do to you is sell you a used car that’s been in an accident, or one that’s had several previous owners. To be sure you don’t fall victim to this, track down a history report, including a clearance check on the vehicle title. You can even get some of this information from the seller, simply by asking why they are selling the car. You’d be surprised people will reveal.
3. Look for damage – Used car dealers are notorious on attempting to peddle a vehicle that was damaged in a major accident. It’s amazing what autobody shops can do to repair a car’s body. So don’t go by the outer appearances of a vehicle. Before you buy it, make sure that it does not have serious damage to its frame, which it would have if it was involved in a crash.
4. Call your mechanic – Used car dealers, especially the big lots, will say they put all their used cars through a “100 point inspection,” or something similar. Once again, a second opinion is in order. Get one from your own mechanic. They’ll be able to tell how good a shape the car actually is in. Also be sure to ask him or her how often the car had been serviced. A good mechanic can even gauge that.
5. Research for recalls – Needless to say, a used car dealer may sell you a car that’s actually under recall, and desperate to get the car off his lot. So be sure to call the car manufacturer, or visit their Web site, to see if the vehicle has any active recalls.
6. Avoid the lemon – Along with recalled vehicles, dealers may even perpetrate something much worse on you, by trying to sell you a lemon. (By definition, a lemon is a car that’s still under warranty, which has such major problems that, warranty or not, it still cannot be fixed in a reasonable way.) The best way to avoid this is to research in Consumer Reports or the various automobile magazines, which all have yearly reviews of every make and model on the market. They’ll tell you whether a kind of car is known for being a lemon and prone to breakdowns.
7. Avoid freshly painted cars – Along with performing their “100 point inspection,” car dealers may shine and wax a used car, or even repaint it to hide all the dents, dings, and rust spots. A keen eye, though, can see right through this.
8. Take a test drive – Once you’ve done all your research, then know what to look for when taking a test drive. Drive the car for as long as the owner or dealer will allow you. Take the mechanic if you can. Then you’ll get a better feel for how the vehicle handles, accelerates, brakes, and otherwise suits your needs.
9. Be wary of pushy salesman – From the moment you first talk to the seller to the test drive, know if the seller gets too pushy. Any dealer or seller who is in a rush to move a vehicle should set off “red flags.” Wonder why the rush? Are they hiding something? In some cases the seller may just be excited to sell you the car, and actually happy for you, but in many other cases, they may be up to something. Better be safe than sorry.