Buy A New (Used) Car and Save Money

Vehicle 101

Hi Again Friends, I was looking over some of my prior newsletters, and one suggestion I had made was to purchase a good used vehicle instead of a brand new one, due to the loss of value when you drive a new one off the lot.

Then, I realized there was a big info-gap I left you in.

So, you might be interested in this “buying a vehicle 101” before deciding on any used vehicle.

So – here goes:  Usually you will want to choose a vehicle between 3-5 years old, with low mileage, under 40,000 is a good number. That means it’s only been driven approximately 10,000 miles a year – pretty good rate.Now, before you even go to look at a vehicle, check the approximate price at – the good old Kelly Blue Book! At least it will give you a guideline and…. Hey! There’s another great freebie!!!

Okay – you’ve heard about a vehicle or seen it advertised in the paper on online.

Walk up to the car, stand at the rear and see it the tires line up front and back – if the vehicle looks like the tires are heading one way and the body of the vehicle is heading a bit left or right, it probably means the vehicle has been in an accident. Question the owner about that.

Check the tires – the old bit of putting a penny in the groove and not being able to see Lincoln’s hair is a pretty good way to judge how many miles are left on the tires before you’ll have to replace them. Physically run your hands around the tires – make sure there are no places where the “rubber” is gone and the threads are exposed.

Now – it’s time to look inside. First you’re going to check the back seat: Check the carpet – a car with 40,000 miles should be in good condition – if the owners took care of it. If they took care of that, perhaps they were considerate of the whole vehicle. Check the seat condition and make sure the seat belts in the back seat work. Close the back doors – do they close securely without slamming?  Now, you actually get to go to the front seat! Just open the door, don’t get in yet – take a  visual appraisal at everything: How’s the upholstery on the driver’s side? Cigarette holes  – I’ve never found a way to fix those successfully. Is the upholstery excessively worn, especially on the driver’s side?


Mexican Taxi

Then question the odometer reading. There is an Internet site you may want to use: that gives you a history of the vehicle– but how often do we look at a vehicle then take the time to go home,  run a check and then go back – by then, if the car was good, it’s probably already been sold – so – do what makes you comfortable.

How are the brake pedal look? Just about worn through? Then, has this car been driven aggressively. How’s the gas pedal? Same thing – aggressive driving can be hard on the engine and the whole system. Check the headliner – that’s the material that goes over you head – is it secure? No excessive staining? Does the top interior light work? Both sunshades secure?  Check the front seat – finally, you should get in and sit down.

Ask for the owner for the key. Do a visual check – if the key is really worn off, again question how carefully the owners treated the car and question the mileage. Insert the key, make sure the brake is on, and start the vehicle. See if any warning lights come on – it’s normal for the oil to light up and then instantly go out, as may some of the other warning lights – it’s normal to light for a moment, but then they should all go out. Pay attention to the sound – with low mileage, it should still pretty much sound like a new car – quiet. If it is equipped with a motorized seat, does it work? Is it big enough for you to comfortably enter and to drive? Alternatively, is it small enough? Does the passenger seat have adjustments? Long rides and comfort go hand in hand.

Now, your partner needs to help for this – turn on the lights – headlights, parking lights, brake lights, and all four signal lights – make sure they perform.Check the interior lights – the ceiling light – maybe the glove compartment light. Take your time – don’t get flustered. All of this is important.

Probably long before this, the owner is trying to get your attention on the pretty color – tell them “yes” and proceed with your inspection.

If the windows are automatic, make sure they all work – one motor in one door for the window can be quite expensive – this is from experience. In hot climate, are the windows tinted? Is that in good condition? Are the door handles secure? Check the door locks – make sure they all work.  Check the seat belts – looking sturdy still? Do they lock properly? Are they secured at the proper points or have they been altered?

You still have the vehicle running – it should not have died. Now, with the motor running,  and the car in park, and the brake on, carefully exit the car – make sure to leave the door open so it doesn’t accidentally lock (how embarrassing) and again check under the hood. Everything looking and sounding good? Great!

So, back in the vehicle for a test drive. Turn the car off, then turn it back on. Try to do a test on city streets for the brake testing (when you use the brake, it shouldn’t feel mushy – it should give you a bit of resistance as you push it in) and turning performance and then on a more open road to check pickup speed, quiet ride, whether the steering wheel feels correct and doesn’t shimmy, and the car holds the road (doesn’t pull to one side or the other) and the motor doesn’t stutter. Make sure the windshield wipers work. If there’s a radio, check it out.Air conditioning working properly? You should also turn the heater on – make sure the fan/blower works well. After slowing down – foot off the gas, step on the gas – you shouldn’t see a big cloud of smoke come out of the back – a small one is acceptable, very small.

When you return the car, leave it idling – it should run smoothly. Get out – leave the door open remember – and go to the back – check for smoke again.  Walk to the front – no terrible odors coming from under the hood – like smoke? OK. Get back in and with the brake on, shift through all the options – reverse, 2nd, drive, etc – make sure they all take and there is no clunking noise as you change. In fact, while you are still driving, the gears should change pretty much noiselessly – no clunking accepted.

Presuming the car by now has been sitting in the driveway for several minutes, do a visual under the car. See any oil leaks? The dripping from the air conditioningcondensation is normal. But anything other than water that’s dripping needs checked.Well, now I think I’ve pretty well covered the gamut of checking out a car. Of course, you can ask the seller if you can take the car to a qualified mechanic to have it checked over. That may cost a few bucks, but may be worth it. If you’re lucky, the seller may have all the repair records for you to see. Those may bring up other questions.

So, after going through all of this, if you like the looks of the car and will be satisfied with it, made the seller an offer. Try starting with at least a 15% reduction from what it’s being offered for. You can usually settle with a 10% cut. Of course, if there are obvious faults that you are willing to live with or get fixed, negotiate even further. Just remember – there’s another used car coming up for sale tomorrow.

Well, I’m sure I’ve missed some things, but, this is a good base to start with when you go to look for a used vehicle that you want to last a while. Hope this helps you in saving those pennies!

Vehicle article by Barbie.

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