Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

How to Buy a used car — Part 2

How to buy a used car — Part 2

Part 1 talked about choosing the right used car. Now we’ll talk about how to get the best price on a used car

Tip #1 Get up to speed on the new way to buy cars

The Internet has changed the way people buy used cars. Smart buyers do their preliminary shopping on the web. They locate the used cars they’re interested in, print out the listings and compare prices between dealers and private sellers. If you skip this step and simply walk onto a used car lot without doing your homework, you will pay more. Use these websites to shop and compare models, color, mileage, condition, and price:

Cars.com • autotrader.com • carsoup.com • cargurus.com • craigslist.com • Edmunds.com • truecar.com •kbb.com • nada.com

Tip #2 Contact the dealer or private seller by e-mail before going to the lot or their home

Here’s why you should use email: First, you want to make sure the vehicle is still available before making the trip. Second, if the car you like is priced higher than comparable vehicles, you’ll want to know ahead of time whether the seller is willing to negotiate. Some dealers have “no haggle” pricing and won’t budge. If other sellers are willing to negotiate, shop those sellers first.

Next, ask the dealer to email you a Carfax report. The report shows maintenance service, repairs, and some accidents. But Carfax reports aren’t 100% reliable, so use them  as a guide, and not as a “clean bill of health.” If the seller is a private party and they don’t have a Carfax report, ask if they’ll provide one. If they won’t, get the vehicle’s VIN number and order your own report (carfax.com).

Tip #3 Email your questions before you see the vehicle

Asking your questions in an email and getting written answers is the best way to avoid misunderstandings and document the seller’s statements and promises. That written documentation can come in handy during price negotiations. And, if you encounter problems later on, the written promises can help you obtain repair assistance.

Here’s what you want to know:

1) Is the vehicle covered by a seller’s warranty? If so, what are the terms of the warranty (length of time, mileage, what is covered, who makes the repairs, etc.)? Is there an extended warranty and is it transferable to a new owner?

2) Has the vehicle ever had a salvaged title? If so, walk away from the vehicle—it’ll be a money-pt.

3) Does the vehicle have any problems that aren’t listed on the Carfax report?

4) How long have you owned the vehicle (if it’s a private seller) and why are you selling it?

5) Do you have copies of the maintenance records and would you be willing to let me examine them?

6) Other than what’s listed in the Carfax report, has the vehicle been involved in any other accidents or had any other body or frame repairs?

7) What repairs have you made to the vehicle and do you have receipts (proof) for those repairs?

8) Is the seller willing to let you take the car to a shop of your choice for a pre-purchase inspection if you’re interested in buying the vehicle? (If not, don’t buy the vehicle).

Once you have satisfactory answers to those questions, it’s time to inspect and test drive the vehicle. Find that information here

How to buy a used car Part III
How to check out a used car before buying
© 2015, Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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