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Buying a new carBefore you shop and before you buy

Research is the key to buying a car. If you know exactly what kind of used car you are looking for, how much it is worth, and what you are willing to pay for it, it will be much easier for you to negotiate for a good deal. Luckily, there are great websites now that compare car models and provide information about safety, fuel economy, model ratings, prices, and general car buying tips.

Once you find a car that you like, you should also be prepared to do some more research.

  • Examine the car yourself using an inspection checklist.
  • Test drive the car under varying road conditions on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Review the car's maintenance record.
  • Talk to the previous owner.
  • Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.
  • Use the car’s 17-digit vehicle identification number to secure a vehicle history from either the state or a private vehicle history company.

Dealerships vs. Individuals

  • When you buy from a dealer, you have the option of paying up-front or financing the car.
  • You also have the advantage of using the Buyer's Guide (a sticker on the car which describes any warranty).
  • There may be less pressure on you to buy if you purchase the car directly from the owner than at a dealership.
  • You may be able to negotiate a lower price with an owner than with a dealership.
  • If you buy a car from someone you know and trust you are more likely to get full disclosure about any defects.

Regardless of whom, you buy the car from, remember there may be damage to the car that the seller does not disclose or does not know about.


Used Car Inspection Checklist

Make sure you or your mechanic check for leaks, cracks, breaks, odd noises, and missing or inoperable parts in the systems of the car. Here are a few key problems to look for. You can also find a more complete list online.

  • Frame and body: Is the frame straight and solid?
  • Engine: Is there excessive oil leakage? Are the belts in place? Is the block or head cracked? Is the exhaust normal?
  • Transmission and drive shaft: Is the transmission fluid the right color and seepage normal? Is the transmission solid? Is the drive shaft in good shape?
  • Cooling system: Does the water pump function properly? Is there any leakage, including any from the radiator?
  • Electrical system: Does the battery leak? Do the alternator, generator, battery, and starter work properly?
  • Brake system: Do the warning lights work? Is the brake pedal firm under pressure? Does the vehicle stop in a straight line? Check the hoses, drum and lining for soundness. Are structural and mechanical parts solid?
  • Steering system: Is there too much free play in the steering? Are the front wheels aligned properly? Check the power unit belts for cracks or slippage and the unit fluid levels.
  • Fuel system: Is there any visible leakage?
  • Accessories: Do gauges and warning devices work? Do the air conditioner, heater, and defroster work?
  • Tires: Check the tread for depth of wear, unusual wear patterns, the tire sizes for matching, and for any other obvious damage.
  • Wheels: Look for any visible cracks, damage, or repairs. Check for loose or missing mounting bolts.
  • Exhaust system: Check for leakage and exhaust smoke when the engine is running.


“AS IS” vs. Warranty

Once you find a car you like and are ready to make an offer on it, pay close attention to how the car is being sold. As is vs. warranty is an important distinction to note when you buy a used car since the most important job a car does is keep us safe. Owners who sell cars “ As Is,” offer no warranty and take no responsibility for any damage, safety issues, or deficiencies that the car has. Watch out for lemons when you buy as is. Accidentally buying a cars that can’t pass inspection, don’t run properly, or can’t carry the load you need them to, may be difficult to get fixed or return. Remember, implied warranties or verbal promises that a car will run are difficult or impossible to enforce in court. Warranties in writing are preferable to buying “AS IS” because they give you the security of knowing that if specific systems of the car don’t function properly, the dealership that you purchased the car from will pay for repairs. Always remember, if you have a problem that you think is covered by a warranty or service contract, follow the instructions to get service. If a dispute arises, there are several steps you can take.


A Word About Certified Used Cars

Since the mid-1990s, dealers have been selling a special type of used car - the "certified" used car. Cars which have been leased or traded-in are evaluated to see if they qualify for certification. Vehicles that qualify are usually in very good condition, with low mileage. The dealers have their mechanics perform a detailed inspection and they offer various warranties Certification can mean different things to different car manufacturers, so it's important to check with each dealer to get the details of their certification program. Review the warranties carefully to see which repairs are covered and which are not. You can check the websites for car manufacturers or contact dealers for information on their certification programs.


Check for Car Safety Features

Some features are mandatory and some are optional. Safety features on many recent models include:

  • Front and side air bags.
  • Head injury protection such as head air bags (shield you from impact with the upper interior of the car).
  • Anti-lock brake systems (ABS).
  • 4-wheel drive with traction control (usually with ABS).
  • Automatic dimming rear-view mirrors (to reduce glare).
  • Daytime running lights.
  • New child seat attachment systems.
  • Built-in child safety seats.

For detailed information on these features and the crash-test rating of the car you are interested in, check out the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) web page on "Buying a Safer Car."

AAA car-buying expert and an auto dealer to find out what NOT to say once you're on a car dealer's turf and what TO say.

Don't talk about monthly payments
You should just focus on negotiating the purchase price.

Dealers will try to get you to negotiate monthly payments instead of purchase price because they'll make more money that way. They are attempting to get you to commit to a longer payment structure and doing the financing, because they're making more money off you in interest payments.

Don't tell a car dealer about your trade-in
They may not be willing to budge on a sticker price of a new car if they are giving you deal on your trade in.

Definitly check out CarMax. Not only is it convenient to research cars from your own home, they have a lot of valuable information.

Get your own financing to save on interest rates. Check out local bank rates online before you leave your home. You may even want to get pre-approved.

Buy or Sell your home with ZipRealty, and save $$$


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