A New Attitude Toward Used

How to buy a pre-owned car

questionable. Private sellers tend to mask the truth.


  • Don’t believe just your mechanic. “Mechanics are notorious for misdiagnosing an auto problem,” offers Stamps. “Get an extended warranty to protect yourself. You will have to spend at least $5,000 to $6,000 to get a car that’s eligible for a warranty.”
  • Don’t believe long-standing industry references as reliable sources. Stamps explains that “blue books” often list inflated retail prices to protect the car dealers, their biggest subscribers. “Many dealers advertise that their prices are below blue book rates. It’s a ruse to make consumers think they’re getting a bargain.”
  • Establish a budget beforehand. Factor in car options, loan rates, and insurance. Stamps uses this as a guideline: Subtract your fixed expenses (rent, credit card payments, utilities, etc.) from your monthly take-home pay. Use one-third of what remains for your monthly car payment and maintenance.
  • Never buy the first year’s production of a new model. Says Stamps, “No one knows for sure how a new model is going to perform in the real world.”

Before You Buy
Do extensive test drives before you purchase any vehicle.
Check out these Websites: www.edmunds.com for True Market Value (TMV) pricing; www.autotrader.com to review vehicles that meet your requirements and budget; and www.warrantybynet.com for extended warranty information and free quotes; www.autobysave.com for money-saving tips; and www.goodasnew.com is the most comprehensive site for used car purchases.

Run the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) through www.carfax.com for a complete car history, including odometer reading.

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