Don’t get taken for a ride

Everything you need to know to purchase a used car

Are you in the market for a car? If so, here are three good reasons to buy a used vehicle: (1) you can’t afford a new one; (2) you want the better value intrinsic in buying a used car, since new cars greatly depreciate in value in the first few years; and (3) you get more car for the money — an old luxury car can cost as little as a new economy car.

The good news is that there are plenty of great used cars out there. Because new cars last longer and remain more reliable, there is a better selection of used cars available. The bad news is that buying one can get complicated. You will need to set a budget, determine what types of cars are acceptable, decide where to buy, find the right car, have it inspected for quality and then negotiate price — before you hit the gas.

Of course, the more money you have, the better your selection. The most reliable used cars are the newer ones. Since so many new cars are leased rather than purchased these days, there are plenty of fairly new machines on the market. That means well-maintained two- and three-year-old cars are common. For the ultimate in buyer confidence, many new car dealers offer a factory-backed “Certified Used Car” program. This gives you a car with a warranty similar to what you’d get if you bought a new car. The downside is that this is also the most expensive way to buy a used car.

Regardless of where you buy it, however, a new car may still have some of the original warranty left. New car warranties today are commonly three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some luxury brands extend that another year. The important thing is to verify any promises made by the seller. The previous owner must have completed specified maintenance items to keep a warranty intact. This is just one reason why complete service records for a car add to its value.

USED CAR SOURCES
There are three places to buy a used car: new car dealers, used car dealers and private parties. New car dealers have the best access to factory service and get first pick of off-lease cars of the same brand they sell new. You’ll pay more to get this assurance of a quality vehicle. The independent used car dealer usually buys cars at an auction without having the opportunity to do a complete mechanical inspection. Although some of these dealers have been in business for a long time and are reputable, be aware that such businesses are less likely to provide the best customer service. Check them out carefully with consumer organizations and the Better Business Bureau. If there’s a problem, each state has its own laws about recourse, so it’s a good idea to know the local rules ahead of time.

Most used car purchases are deals between private parties. This is the way to get the lowest price. The downside is that you can’t expect

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