Avoid Getting a Lemon! 5 Things Everyone Needs to Know Before Buying a Used Car

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Buying a used vehicle can save you loads in cash and there are plenty of great ones out there ready to be bought. However, buying a used car can also be a major time consuming pain, and eventually end up costing you more if you aren’t careful. When you go out to look for that sweet deal of a used ride, follow these five tips which will end up saving you plenty of headaches (and greenbacks) down the road.

5 Exterior and Internal Fixes

Remember that a lot of times exterior cosmetic body damage may cost much more to fix than internal work. A basic ‘tune up’ (which these days consists of a spark plug change, ignition wire replacement, a tire rotation, a oil change and fluid check and maybe a few other things) will probably cost you very little compared to fixing some sort of cosmetic body damage. Assess the kind of work that you will need to do under the hood and on the body. Get a grasp on how much a repair will cost on that particular vehicle. Most importantly, research to see if that repair may have caused further damage to the car due to not being fixed sooner. Knowing about fixes and damages can help you snag a deal from someone not willing to put the money forth to fix a car for a minor repair. If you have time to look at the car for cosmetic damage, call around town to see how much that damage may cost to fix. Always plan to put some money into the car after purchase.

4 Check the Price

Before you write that check, get that loan, or pay out that cash, check online sites such as Craigslist or local ads to see how much that particular car and model is going for around town. Many people and dealers will match Kelley Bluebook prices, but that doesn’t always mean the car should be going for that much. Not only by price comparing will you know if you are getting a good deal on the vehicle or not, you may find an even better deal across town.

3 Think of the Bells and Whistles

I am a sucker for mid-90s BMWs. Call me crazy, but I love their looks and the fact that I can get them at a decent price because nobody wants to pay to fix them up (do it yourself!). There is one thing I have learned in buying these cars: they come with a ton of bells and whistles, and boy, do they always seem to need to be fixed. Electric windows, seat motors, lock actuators, cabin lights, etc. etc. When you buy a used a car, and it is some super-luxury edition, think about all those little switches which already have had about 20k-80k worth of use (or however many miles that said car has on it). If you aren’t down for trying to get this stuff fixed yourself, or paying for the fix, you’ll get really frustrated when your window switch stops working. My friend, not knowing what he got into, purchased an older used Benz with all sorts of great gizmos for a great price. Within the first year, most of those luxury features had gone bad, and he hadn’t planned putting money into fixing these items (all of it was going or had gone to fix more important things). Since he never spent the money to repair the small stuff, he just ended up feeling frustrated and ripped off in the end (especially whenever he went to put the window down). On the other hand, I drove a 1998 Ford Ranger with no electric or luxury anything, and in the ten years I owned that truck I only had to fix the cabin light once. Think about what may or may not need to be fixed and realize it will probably go out sooner than later. I don’t recommend buying a used car without convenience features if that is stuff you need/want, but just keep it all in mind!

2 CARFAX It

This is an obvious step and this usually always comes standard at most used dealers, but with private ownerships you’ll probably want to jot down the VIN number. This is almost always on the driver side interior dash, and can be seen by looking in from the windshield. On older cars, sometimes it can be stamped on the inside of the frame, on the engine block, in the trunk under the spare tire or even on the door jamb. CARFAX will give you a fair history of the hands the car has passed through and if it has been through flooding or is a salvage.

1 Look at the Paperwork/History

If you can get any paperwork regarding maintenance or repairs, or even receipts for parts, this will benefit you in so many ways. You will know what exactly needs to be fixed and what parts were put it into the vehicle and when. All this stuff is good to know when buying a used car. A paper past can help you determine how much extra money you might have to put into the car once you do buy it. When you finally make the purchase, keep a record of everything you do to the car for your own use and for reselling purposes.

There are plenty of good used cars out there, so take your time, be patient, and follow these five steps to getting yourself a great deal and a quality ride.

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