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Used Car Buying Tips

Buying a used car can be a great way to get a great car for a great price. If you’re on a budget and looking to buy a car, you may be about to brave the minefield of the used car market. These ten tips will help you ensure you go home with a quality used car, and don’t end up stuck with a lemon.

  • 1. Avoid cars with salvage titles. Salespeople may try to convince you the salvage title means nothing, and sometime it does, but more often than not, salvaged cars can have lasting frame and structural damage which can cause a plethora of issues, especially in the case of a new accident. Prior damage can cause the car to warp and crumple in odd ways if you get in another accident, which can cause the car to total out more easily, if not put your life in danger.
  • 2. Have a professional take a look. Sometimes there are hidden issues with used cars, especially older ones. Before buying, have someone with knowledge of cars take a look at it and point out any pressing issues.
  • 3. Get the Carfax. While it sounds stereotypical, Carfaxes contain a lot of vital information in an easily understood format. You won’t have to be a professional to understand the issues the car may have.
  • 4. Check prior service records. If you can get ahold of the car’s prior service records, it will give you a great idea of the previous issues with the car, as well as any red flag issues.
  • 5. Do your research. Research the make, model, and year of the car you’re considering. The internet is a fantastic resource. You can discover common issues, depreciation and value via a quick Google search. Know the Kelly bluebook value of the car you’re considering. Knowing what its worth will help you avoid being ripped off.
  • 6. Test-drive the car. While this seems like common sense, test-driving the car gives you the experience that is so often necessary to your decision. Driving the car will show you firsthand if the pedals are sticky, the engine makes a funny noise, the steering pulls to the right or any other driving issues.
  • 7. Certain issues are worse than others. Avoid cars with flood damage, airbag issues, and frame damage, as these are expensive to fix and are can often put your life in danger.
  • 8. Avoid odometer rollback fraud. There are many ways to avoid be tricked by this classic fraud. Having a mechanic look at the car is the best method, as they will notice things you won’t about the condition of the car. The state of other parts can be used to determine how many miles should be on the car as well. If the odometer says 40,000 miles but the spark plugs need replacing, the mileage may be closer to 100,000.
  • 9. If your gut says it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Doing your research is really helpful here, but if you feel the deal is too good, bordering on fishy, it’s okay to walk away, you’re probably right.
  • 10. Avoid curbstoners. Curbstoning is the illegal practice of pretending to be a car’s owner to sell it while avoiding state regulations on auto dealerships. Curbstoners often rip off customers, profiting on each sale by cutting corners. These tactics include not obtaining the necessary insurance, licenses and permits, and pocketing money that should rightly go to city, state and federal government. It isn’t unusual for a successful curbstoner to sell three or four cars in the span of a few weeks by listing cars under the “for sale by owner” or “private party” sections of online classified listings. They may even invent elaborate excuses to explain why they are selling a car that they don’t have any records or history for, including the title.

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