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Ladymia69's avatar

Does anyone have any tips on buying a used car?

Asked by Ladymia69 (6881points) February 24th, 2011

My husband got into an accident a few weeks ago and thankfully wasn’t hurt. The car however, is totaled. We have been driving a rental for 3 weeks, and just got the check from the insurance company. We have about $8,000 to spend on a used car. We have searched several companies online, such as carmax, veehix, auto trader, et cetera. We are pretty wary of private sellers, as we don’t want to end up with a shady situation (such as owing money on a title). I am wondering if anyone has any tips or sites to share, time-saving advice, or anything that could help us on our search. Thanks in advance.

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12 Answers

Dog's avatar

Always have it checked by a mechanic. It is the best investment you can make in a used car. Worth every penny.

If the owners balk when you tell them you want to have it checked walk away and do not look back.

Coloma's avatar

Right @Dog

Always have a diagnostic 1st.

Next, as a single female this is HUGELY important to me find a mechanic you can trust and never leave him or betray him! lol

bkcunningham's avatar

Always check the Kelly Blue Book for the value of the vehicle. Carfax will give you all sorts of information about the vehicle when you input the VIN from the vehicle and $34.99 for one report or five reports for $44.95.

Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission. BTW, I’m glad your husband is okay.

Also, Edmunds has some good tips:

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Spend the money to have it put on a lift and gone over by a mechanic who’s also familiar enough with body work to recognize when some has been done. Carfax reports will only show what’s been reported to an insurance company as far as damages go and a lot of people will pay out of their pockets for repairs rather than have their insurance go up.

It’s really tough out there to find good used cars right now since “Cash For Clunkers” ate deeply into the market so be careful. Dealerships are paying more than ever at auction for decent used cars and still can’t meet the demand so if you shop pre owned from a dealer, don’t be surprised at higher prices than in years past.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

We have bought several used cars from private sellers and never had a problem. Same rules apply. Have it checked out by a mechanic, check the blue book value, make sure the name on the title matches the person selling, and make sure you get new plates immediately so if they have any tickets, you will not get stopped.

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Ladymia69's avatar

@Coloma, I am not single, but thanks! :0

augustlan's avatar

I found it very useful to narrow my choices by researching used cars online (vehix). Once I’d decided on a couple of models I could live with, and familiarized myself with their prices, I went local and scoured the dealer’s lots. I found mine almost by accident, while driving by a local lot. Good luck!

faye's avatar

I bought mine from a dealer. I’m single and felt they had to get the car checked out, so I’d be safer.

jerv's avatar

I know what to look for in a car, but many people don’t. Unless you are good with cars (like replacing your own head gasket), I recommend that you bring along a very car-savvy friend. I cannot stress that enough. I know most of the people here say to get it checked out (preferably by someone other than the seller) but it is important enough that I am going to repeat it.

I have yet to pay more than half of the Blue Book value for any of my cars, so while it’s a handy thing to know, it isn’t quite as important as people think. Also, Carfax has serious limits. Most of the cars I’ve had only show changes of ownership and the like; no maintenance records. Take it with a grain of salt.

And don’t be afraid of private sales just because a few shady people are out there. If you have enough common sense to look both ways before crossing the street, you can avoid that sort of problem. Here in WA state it’s a bit easier; if they don’t have the title right there to put in your hand, don’t buy their car.

As for other tips, I would go with a Toyota or Honda if you plan to keep it for more than a couple of years. Just trust me on that one ;)

@faye That depends. The only car I personally bought from a dealer was also the second most expensive and also the shortest-lived. The two my wife bought from dealers both had issues that could not have foreseen but that have soured my opinion of buying from a dealer. (The sort of problems that aren’t so bad in a $500 car but are unforgivable in a $12,000 one.). My luck with private sales has been much better.
My current $300 Craigslist special (an ‘85 Corolla) will probably outlast a lot of the used cars on the market right now; pretty impressive considering it has already been on the road for >25 years! It has already outlasted a two-year-old Saturn

@optimisticpessimist In WA, if the seller doesn’t turn in a record of sale within five days, they get into some trouble. And if you show up with a valid bill of sale and a title signed by the previous owner, the former owner’s indiscretions are not your problem. The previous owner of my car wasn’t exactly innocent and my car is easily identified even without plates (the big skull on the hood is pretty distinctive) but I haven’t been stopped yet.
Of course, in NH, plates stay with the person, so buying a new car requires either new plates or transferring your old ones, making it a non-issue.

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