One of the biggest moments in a person’s life is driving off in a brand new vehicle — it’s an exhilarating feeling.
It’s also a big moment because in that very instant, as you’re driving it off the lot, that brand spanking new car loses a big chunk of its value (the difference between the retail price you paid and the car’s wholesale value).
That’s typically thousands gone in an instant.
It’s for this reason that some car buyers choose to shop around for a used car. You save yourself that steep initial drop-off in value. More importantly, you get a car that runs just as well (if it’s within 2-3 years old), is just as dependable, and looks and feels as good as that new car-that is, if you play your cards right.
If there’s one pitfall of buying a used car, it’s the risk of buying a lemon, a junker — call it what you want, you get the point: THE WRONG CAR. After all, used car dealers have nearly as bad a reputation, if not worse than lawyers do. This also holds true for individual people selling their cars through newspapers, web auctions and classified sites, or the old-fashioned way (with signs in their car windows). The saying, “Buyer Beware,” as most shoppers know, has more meaning with cars.
The opposite of that, of course, is that there are some real steals out there in used cars. We’re talking about quality vehicles that will perform beyond your expectations at a low price. Here’s how to find these perfect used vehicles, and avoid the top scams that used car dealers everywhere try to pull.
Used car dealers will bombard you with every adjective under the sun to sell you on a car. Just don’t take their word for it. Instead, find someone you know, whether it be a neighbor, colleague, family member, or friend who owns the same make and model of the vehicle you’re interested in, and ask them for their opinion.
One of the most unethical, but legal, things someone can do to you is sell you a used car that’s been in a flood (and repaired), or one that’s had 10 previous owners (none of whom repaired it). To be sure you don’t fall victim to this, track down a history report, including a clearance check on the vehicle title. Carfax anyone? You can even get some of this information from the seller, simply by asking why they are selling it. You’d be surprised what beans people may spill.
Used car dealers may also try to peddle a vehicle that was wrecked in a major accident. It’s amazing what autobody experts can do to repair a car’s exterior. So don’t go by the outer appearance of a vehicle. Before you buy it, make sure it doesn’t have serious damage to its frame, which it would if it was involved in a crash. Pull out the fine tooth comb!
Used car dealers, especially the major lots, will say they put their used cars through a “100 point inspection,” or something like that. Once again, a second opinion is in order. Get this from your own mechanic. He or she will be able to tell how good a shape the car is actually in. Also, be sure to ask him or her how often the car has been serviced. Believe it or not, a good mechanic can even gauge that.
Needless to say, a used car dealer may sell you a car that’s actually under recall in his mad rush to get the car off his lot. So, be sure to call the cars manufacturer, or visit their website, to see if the vehicle has any active recalls.
Along with recalled vehicles, dealers may even perpetrate something much worse on you in the form of a “lemon”. By definition, a lemon is a car that’s still under warranty, which has such major problems that, warranty or not, still cannot be fixed in a reasonable way. The best way to avoid this is to research using Consumer Reports or the various automobile magazines, which all have yearly reviews of every make and model on the market. They’ll tell you whether a type of car is known for being a lemon and prone to breakdowns. Don’t touch it no matter how pretty or cool it is!
Along with performing their “100 point inspection,” car dealers may shine and wax a used car — even repaint it to hide dents, dings, and rust spots. A keen eye, though, can see right through this.
Once you’ve done ALL of your research, homework, extra credit, and everything else listed above, take a test drive. Drive the car for as long as its owner or dealer will allow you. Don’t just take it around the corner and back. Hit the highway also so you can see what happens when it hits higher speeds. Then you’ll get a better feel for how the vehicle handles, accelerates, brakes, and otherwise suits your tastes (or doesn’t).
At any stage of the game — from the moment you first talk to the seller, to the test drive, be careful if the seller gets pushy. Any dealer or seller who is in a rush to move a vehicle should set off bells and whistles. Why the rush? Are they hiding something? In some cases the seller may just be excited to sell you the car, and actually happy for you, but in many other cases, they may be up to no good. Better be safe than sorry.
Follow these simple steps to avoid the scams and pitfalls of used car deals, and you could wind up with the car of your dreams — for far less than you’d pay had it been brand new. Plus, you get that same high when you drive your “new” used car home, without losing thousands of dollars.
© 2012, Dee @ Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.