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5 Used Car Buying Tips for Smart Shoppers​

February 17, 2017

Buying a used car can put you at greater risk due to potential problems with the older vehicle and possible disreputableness from used car dealers and salespeople. On the other hand, it can be a rewarding and money-saving experience to own a used vehicle. There are a few used car buying tips to remember.

Ask for the VIN number when you shop online.

Not every salesman is devious but there is a common practice that involves advertising a vehicle online and then saying it was sold when the shopper arrives at the dealership. A classic bait and switch, in other words. Call and ask for the VIN number of the vehicle in question, and verify that it has the features you were looking for when you arrive.

Ask about and assess the condition of the car.

Most states allow used car sales without any kind of inspection or pre-sale conditioning. You should ask the salesperson if he has any maintenance records or knows anything about the car that isn't easily noticed with a lookover.

When you go on a test drive, listen for noises and try to pick up any odors that might come into the cockpit. If anything seems abnormal, ask about it. When the explanation isn't good enough, get a third-party mechanic to check it out. In fact, it's a good idea to do this anyway.

Have a look at the title.

Simply put, the title must have the seller's name on it. Check the seller's ID, just to make sure. If someone else is selling the car, there could be a dispute that arises. You don't want to be in the middle of that.

Research the market value of the vehicle.

You shouldn't start negotiating without a plan and having a plan requires knowing what your target purchase price is. There are many websites where you can find out what the market price of a vehicle is (edmunds, kbb, etc.) but the market price doesn't always fall near the best price you can get. Just get an idea and then start negotiations where you want to.

For new cars, it's a good idea to determine the dealer cost and devise your strategy based on that.

Get things put into writing.

Nothing will be easily enforceable under the law unless it is in writing. If a salesman offers you new tires at a certain mileage in the future, for example, it's not a real offer unless it's in writing with a signature.

Get unpublicized discounts and find the dealer cost of any new vehicle when you search local dealer inventory.

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