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Kate on Cars March 2012 - Used Car Buying Tips - Avoiding a Nightmare

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Kate on Cars March 2012

Used Car Buying Tips - Avoiding a Nightmare

by Kate Jonasse

A friend of mine was recently in the market for a used car. He asked me what kind of car he should get – I asked him what he liked. He thought about it and said he’d like something that suited his needs. Throughout the process of interrogation between he and I, it came out that he wanted a vehicle that would have enough space for his weapons (he teaches Aikido), get better fuel mileage than his Mercedes, last him 2 years or so, and cost $2500-4000. That was a good start.

He got on Craigslist, and found a Jeep that he liked, being sold by a used-car dealer. The dealer allowed him to drive it to my shop for a Pre-Purchase Inspection. What we found was surprising:

The vehicle’s front brakes were worn nearly metal-to-metal, there were multiple dash warning lights on, and the steering wheel was off-center due to some serious steering component problems – and this is just a portion of what was wrong with it. The vehicle was unsafe to drive – the dealer was selling an unsafe vehicle, and allowed my friend to drive if off the lot, possibly leading to an accident. In my mind, it is unacceptable for a dealer – who should be more reliable and trustworthy than an individual – to even consider selling a vehicle without repairing it’s safety issues. Really unbelievable.

If he had not had us perform the inspection, he may have purchased a real headache.

To assist him in his search for another vehicle, I then hopped online and pointed out a few that I thought he might like – a Toyota RAV4, a Honda CRV, and a Volvo S70. The RAV and the CRV were a little above his desired price range (those vehicles tend to retain their value and be very reliable for the most part), so we chose the Volvo for a Pre-Purchase Inspection. He ended up purchasing this car, and is thrilled with it. We found a winner on the second try, because we narrowed the pool by asking the right questions.

These questions include, but are far from limited to:

1.   What kind of vehicles do you like?

2.   How much do you have to spend?

3.   What are your special needs?

4.   How long does your car need to last?

Make a list of what you need in the car. Then make a list of what you want. Maybe your list includes having enough space for the whole family, or having air-conditioning, an automatic transmission, or great fuel mileage – it’s a good idea to write these ideas down, and break them into categories or number them in order of importance. This kind of preparation will help reduce the amount of time you spend looking around – as long as you are able to compromise and realize what is a need, and what is a want.

A Pre-Purchase Inspection may cost a little money upfront, but it is much less costly than purchasing a nightmare car like that Jeep would have been. If he had purchased the vehicle from the “trusted dealer” without having it inspected, he would have had to put thousands of dollars into it in the very near future – not to mention the possibility of an accident occurring.

Almost any type of car can be a good one if it’s been taken care of.

Just remember to get a Pre-Purchase Inspection performed by a shop you can trust – it will point out any obvious faults that cannot be easily seen. It will give you peace of mind, and could save you thousands of dollars and tons of headaches.

If you do your research and take the right actions, you’ll end up with a car that you really love driving.