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Buying A Used Car

May 16, 2008
When making the decision to purchase a used car there are some pros and cons you should take into consideration. The benefits include a lower purchase price, the possibility of lower property taxes and an overall reduction in the cost of car insurance.

The downside is that there are approximately over 2 million vehicles involved in accidents every year and the odds of you finding one of those cars damaged is high. Also, your used car will not include a new car warranty and there is a chance that the vehicle might be prone to problems a lot sooner obviously than if it was brand new.

Consider taking these steps before you even begin the process of looking for a used car. Most dealerships offer Certified, Pre-Owned Vehicles. This is your best bet in the used car market. CPO vehicles on average have less than 50,000 miles and have passed multi-point inspections. Any issues regarding service or repairs are handled before the car is put on the lot. Most automotive companies will include an extended warranty at no extra cost, towards extra parts (like transmission and engine). These will be the cleanest and most well-maintained used cars.

Look for used cars that have a considerable amount, or at least a portion of their manufacturer's warranty left. Often with later model cars you run the risk of the three year/36,000 mile warranty having expired. If you limit your search to cars that haven't yet hit that mark, you will be searching for a better used car. Make sure to ask if the warranty is one that is completely transferable.

Ask the dealer to provide the vehicle's service records. If the records are up to date and complete, that is usually a good sign. Now if you are told that the records are unavailable, that is a little suspicious. You want a used car that has been taken care of and is in excellent condition. If the dealer appears as though he is hiding something, even if it is service records, then he usually is. That is why it is in your best interest to have a third-party mechanic look over the vehicle. This might be the exact make/model you are looking for, yet just by looking at it, you have no idea what this car has been through. A mechanic can put the car up on a lift and spot any prior crash damage, corrosion, frame damage that might be hidden and any leaks. Be cautious of a dealer who refuses the opinion of an outside mechanic. That usually means he is aware of damage that you might not recognize on your own.

Your used car must pass the safety and emissions tests given by your state. This is a legal requirement, and will be your responsibility. You want to avoid any extra costs and fees towards your used car. Make sure it is clear to pass these tests before purchasing. You will not be able to register or drive the car until it passes inspections. Be careful not to sign any "As Is" statements on a contract. By doing so, you are accepting that once the car leaves the lot, any problems are now your problems. About 30 days are necessary to make sure that there is nothing wrong with the used vehicle.

It is very important to conduct a background check on the used car of your interest. Inspecting it on your own and even with the assistance from the third party mechanic will not tell you the history on the vehicle. By searching the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator's website (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov) you will find valuable information that has been collected by JD Power and Associates. There will be listings that pertain to recalls and safety-related defects. If there are any complaints about this vehicle, the Internet is the place to find them. Consumer Reports is also an excellent source of information.

Finally, take the Vehicle Identification Number of the used car and run a report through a reputable company such as CARFAX or Experian AutoCheck Vehicle History. You will learn about prior accidents, manufacturer buy backs and any fraud towards the vehicle. In the long run you will be thankful for running all of the extra checks before purchasing a used car. If you can't get a new vehicle, make sure that you get the used one that comes close to being just that.
About the Author
Christina Costa, a freelance automotive writer, recommends Equotegrabber where you can get an automotive quote online in seconds! Visit Equotegrabber.com
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