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Used Car Buying Tips

CarWale टीम , 13-May-2007

Car Tips

Buying a used car is more complicated than buying a new one. There are concerns about what may be breaking or already been fixed. Another concern with buying a used car is the warranty. Over half of the used cars today are being sold "as is". Buying an "as is" car is very risky – once you hand over that money and sign your name on the dotted line, that car is your problem no matter what happens.

Not all aspects of buying a used car are bad. Used cars can be the smartest way to go sometimes. If you are living on limited means, a used car is a great idea if bought outright. If you are not going to finance the used car, you will only have to get liability insurance which is much cheaper than full coverage which is required when financing any car. Another bonus is that a used car won't have fees attached to the price like a new car would. When buying a new car, the dealership adds fees like cleaning and shipping to the price. A used car, even when bought from a lot, will not have most of these fees. If you are in the market to buy a used car and need some extra cash, try E-LOAN for a car loan. By following the following simple steps, you can cut the risk of buying a car that will fall apart and become a black hole for your money.

Buying a used car obviously carries a certain degree of risk. After all, with a new car you get peace of mind – no one has driven the vehicle carelessly or failed to have it maintained on a regular basis. If something does go wrong, the car is under warranty — at least for a period of time. These safeties are not usually included in the purchase of a used car. But used-car buying need not be as fraught with anxiety and terror as some may think. Knowing where and how to buy a used car as well as which cars to buy can alleviate most of the tension consumers feel about this process. If you are willing to spend time doing thorough research, you will soon be driving the car of your dreams, secure in the knowledge that you paid a fair price for your set of wheels.

Choosing a Used Car

How much could you afford?

Before you begin your search for a good deal on a used car, spend time considering many of the same factors that would apply to a new car purchase: how you will use the vehicle; how long you plan to keep it and your budget – including insurance, operation, maintenance and repair costs.

What Car should you buy?

Decide what car suits your lifestyle and image the best. Since you will probably own and use the same car for many more years, you need to anticipate future needs and lifestyle changes. Today you could easily consider buying a mid-sized car as these cars are available at great bargains. Narrowing down your dream list is a bit more difficult for used cars than new cars because there are so many more used vehicles. Talk to friends or acquaintances who drive cars that appeal to you; word of mouth is often one of the best ways to gather information about reliability or quirks of certain models.

How Old is 'old'?

If budget is top priority then you should pick a smaller, newer car rather than a large, older car. A larger car will have higher running costs - fuel, maintenance, tyres and spares will need more money. Your best bet is to look for something almost new – a car two years old or younger. You could get a good deal because there are many car owners who don't want to be seen in 'yesterday's model' - they want to be seen driving only the latest cars. Buying a middle-aged car (3-5 years old) that has been treated well by its owner could be a great buy. Cars that have logged 14,000-18,000km a year are prime buys. Cars flogged badly by chauffeurs or heavily used ones are trouble.

Analog odometer readings can be rolled back, or "clocked." This fraud is practiced by thousands of fly-by-night, independent used-car sellers nationwide. The effect is obvious: a high-mileage car is turned into a low-mileage car to increase the car's value. A car with low mileage, but with a lot of wear on the driver's seat or the brake and accelerator may indicate tampering with the odometer.

How Much Should You Spend?

It's easy to overspend your budget on a new car or truck. Here's how to avoid getting in over your head.

Do some Research

You know how much you want to spend on a vehicle, but do you know how realistic that "deal" really is? Get the valuation of the car done from a bank's valuator or just submit the car's details on CarWale.com and we shall provide you with the approximate value of the vehicle. Give yourself enough time to examine the car thoroughly. Do not purchase it at night, in the rain, or if you are too cold, too wet or too busy to study your choice. Always take the car for a test drive. Always have a mechanic check the car, particularly the underside.

Take a Test-Drive

The test-drive is, of course, an essential part of the process. Test-drive the car on different types of roads. Make sure the engine starts right away, and there are no unusual noises or vibrations. Look out for a shaky steering, it could mean front-end trouble. Test the brakes for signs of pulling. A car with low mileage should not have a brake pedal that looks worn out. If the car has a manual transmission, push the gearshift through various gears to see how it performs. If the car has steering without power assistance, city driving and parallel parking can be difficult, so try and test drive the car under many conditions.

Examine the Exterior

Look for signs of an accident, such as dents or new paint or chrome. Make sure the hood shuts properly. Check the body for rust or fill. Look under the car. Check for cracks in the frame, rusting or welding. Check the condition of the muffler, tailpipe and exhaust components. Look for signs of fluids leaking from the car, including oil, brake or transmission fluid. Push down the corners of the car to check the shock absorbers. If the car bounces up and down several times, the shocks are worn. Open the trunk. Check for a jack and the condition of the spare tire. Check for rust under the mats. Look at the tires closely for any signs of uneven wear.

Examine the Interior

Lift the hood and check the condition of the belts and hoses. Check the battery to see if it is cracked. Pull out the dipstick to see the oil level, and whether it's dirty. Check the parts and accessories, such as lights, horn, mirrors, seatbelts, radio, heater and windows. Make sure they all work. Have a friend check the outside lights for you. Make sure doors open and close easily, and that handles and locks work well. Check the dimmer switch, headlights and windshield washer. You should also check the odometer. It is against the law to change the odometer reading, and if you think someone has tampered with it, avoid the car.

Check the liens

When buying a used car, consumers should protect themselves by ensuring there are no outstanding liens against the car (for example: an unpaid loan). If there is still an outstanding lien, the car could be repossessed - even if you paid full price to the seller.

A Stolen Car

Always check the serial number on the Vehicle Registration card. Make sure it corresponds to the number on the car. Make sure the person who is selling the car actually owns it, and is not trying to sell a leased vehicle.

Making an Offer

If you decide to buy, you can make an offer either verbally or in writing. If there are conditions to your offer, write them down. For example, if you want your mechanic to inspect the car before the sale is final (and you have not already had the car examined), make the mechanic's approval a condition of the sale. If you need to borrow money to make the purchase, make your offer subject to getting credit at a reasonable rate. The seller may ask for a deposit. Make sure you state in your offer that the deposit will be refunded if the mechanic does not approve the car, or if you do not get the financing. As part of the offer, suggest the seller grant a 30-day warranty. The warranty should say that the seller will take the car back should any major problems arise with the engine or other parts of the car. This type of warranty will not cover accidents while the car is in your possession.

Avoiding Scams

As most of us know, used-car buying is a business that has traditionally created a bad name for itself. But while consumers and ethical auto dealers have benefited greatly from the internet, so too have crooked buyers and sellers. As such, you need to be aware of potential scams. Here are some of the most common ones directed toward buyers and sellers online:

Certified Check Scams - This scam is often perpetrated on sellers of used cars over the internet through classified ads and auctions. A buyer indicates that he wants to buy the car and pay with a cashier's check. At the last minute, the buyer creates a reason why he needs to write the check for more money and have the seller wire him the difference. The check turns out to be a fake, but it is often discovered long after the seller has wired the money. In addition, the seller is responsible for covering the money for the fake check. To avoid check scams, call the issuing bank before you accept the check and wait for the check to clear before you transfer the car into the buyer's name.

The best way to avoid most scams is to make sure you never transfer ownership of your vehicle until you have the cash in your hand. That means, you either get cash from the buyer or wait for the cashier's check to clear. Avoid buyers who will never meet you or never wish you to see the vehicle in person (overseas). Avoid taking personal checks and allowing buyers to pay the car off over time. If buying, always verify the seller actually has/owns the item for sale and meet them face-to-face to view the vehicle. If you follow these few precautions, your buying and selling experience should go smoothly.

Dealer Tricks

If you are buying car from a dealer you must consider the dealer’s tricks. Most people dread going to buy a new car for one simple reason: the salesmen. I'm not saying all salesmen are out to get you, but we've seen our fair share of deceptive salesmen who use tricks or play on words to get that sale and make that commission. Nowadays, most car dealerships are trying to become "customer friendly". To help you find a good dealership and weed through the bad, we've compiled a list of dealer tricks and how to avoid them. If you ever find yourself in any of these situations, don't be afraid to leave the dealership. You can also let the salesperson know that you are leaving because of their trick and that you will not be back to that dealership to buy your new car. Word of mouth is one of the strongest forms of advertising and dealerships know this. Once you weed out the dealerships with poor customer service and poor sales tactics and find one you like and trust, you will be a loyal customer to that dealership and maybe even that particular salesman.

Make sure you browse through our list to familiarize yourself with these tricks before you go to a dealership. Don't get caught unaware. Although we've only listed the tricks we've seen first hand, there are many more tricks that dealerships/salesman will try to play on unsuspecting customers. If you have encountered any new ones we have not listed and would like to share them with others and expose all the tricks we can, please email them to us at contact@carwale.com.

Closing the Deal

When you reach an agreement on the purchase price of a used car, you may be tempted to think you're home free. In fact, there are several crucial steps that need to be done correctly, or all your hard work up to this point could be for naught.

Change in Ownership

Always ask the seller for the car’s registration papers. These documents are required to transfer ownership of the vehicle. The certificate also provides the purchaser a chance to confirm vehicle ownership.

In Nutshell

  • Examine the car's repair record, maintenance costs, safety and mileage ratings in consumer magazines or online.
  • Make sure all oral promises are written into the Buyer's Guide.
  • You have the right to see a copy of the dealer's warranty before you make your purchase.
  • Warranties are included in the price of the product; service contracts cost extra and are sold separately.
  • Ask for the car's maintenance record from the owner, dealer, or repair shop.
  • Test drive the car on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.
  • Find out as much as you can about the dealer from local consumer protection officials.
  • If you buy a car "as is," you'll have to pay for anything that goes wrong after the sale.
  • The Used Car rule generally doesn't apply to private sales.

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