Buying a used or "previously owned" car is a great way to save money and still obtain the transportation you need for work, school, and living. Check out our New Car Buying Tips for useful guidelines on assessing your needs, calculating your budget, arranging financing and insurance, and comparison shopping online.
While there are many legitimate reasons for owners to sell or trade in a used car, some cars may have been in accidents and had extensive repairs, been poorly maintained, or have persistent mechanical problems. Before you purchase a used vehicle, follow these tips to make sure you don't end up with someone else's problem.
- Check maintenance logs. Ask the owner for a record of standard maintenance that has been performed on the vehicle, such as servicing, brake checks, and fluid replacements.
- Inspect the car yourself for mechanical soundness, or have it inspected by a certified mechanic or auto repair shop. Inspect it for signs of wear and tear, rust, paint gouges, and other red flags.
- Buy a vehicle report from an independent service such as CARFAX or Consumer Reports to learn about any serious damage the car has sustained, from flooding to bent frames.
- Shop from a reputable dealership that offers certified pre-owned vehicles. A certified vehicle will come with a warranty, either from the dealer or the manufacturer.
- Check official guides (NADA, Kelley Blue Book) for pricing on the vehicle you like. Value will vary according to the make and model, age, condition, mileage, and features on the car. You can negotiate with the seller for the best price.
- Protect yourself against fraud. Before buying, check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to ensure the car hasn't been reported stolen. Also, look at the VIN tag and registration documentation to be sure they haven't been tampered with. It's wise to take extra precautions with any private sellers who want cash only or won't provide a home address and phone number.
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