I tried in every way imaginable to get someone else to take responsibility. But it became apparent that anyone else would head to a used car lot, find a car that they “loved” and could afford, and buy it without digging deeper into the history, maintenance and reliability of the car. I finally gave in and began what will be known as “my year of living dangerously learning about cars.”
Although my search is not over yet, I have gained valuable knowledge about how to buy a used car.
- A new car can lose up to 20% of it’s value the second you drive it off the lot, per Edmonds.com (a fabulously helpful site for anyone researching cars).
- It is vital to have someone you trust (a mechanic) thoroughly check out any used car you are thinking of buying prior to purchase. Before you do that, however, look for evidence of undisclosed repairs, funky smells, neglect, or oil leaks. Don’t buy someone else’s problem.
- Unless you totally trust the owner, check the history of the car by running the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) through a service such as Carfax.com. This service will tell you the number of owners, reported accidents, flood damage and last reported odometer reading.
- When looking at how much car you can afford to buy, consider the true cost of owning a car, which is much more than the price you pay for the vehicle. After that are the taxes, registration, insurance, maintenance, tires, gas and the occasional ticket.
- The make and model of the car seem to impact the cost of insurance more than the year, current mileage or the price you paid. Make sure you check with your insurance carrier to get an estimate on what your insurance will be before you purchase the car. You can also check online at the various insurance company home pages to get a quote. I discovered that the 1999 Lexus RX300 I was contemplating was going to cost almost as much in insurance as the 2006 Ford F150 truck. Who knew?
- CarMax is a great place to go to “try on cars.” The sales pressure is really low and they have a ton of different kinds of cars on the lot. They have a no haggle policy on the price so you won’t have to haggle with a car salesmen, but you won’t get an INCREDIBLE deal. However, if I only had one day to buy a used car, I would go to a CarMax to get it because I know they would have something on the lot I would like and feel secure in buying.
- The keywords I use to search for a reliable used “for sale by owner” car on Craigslist are “owner low miles.” I think the best used car is one that has been owned by only one person who knows the car’s history, has personally taken care of it, and has maintenance records.
I’m still looking for my ideal cars, but I have learned soooo much since I started my search. The last car I bought, I didn’t even know (or care) about how many miles it had on it. I didn’t realize that it mattered.
Do you have any good tips for me on finding my cars? What has worked for you?