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Buying a Used Car? What You Need to Know…

The most popular times for families to add another car to their household is around the holidays and at graduation. If you are looking for a pre-owned (USED) car to replace an older car or as a gift for one of the kids it’s important to remember a few things.

Whether you buy a used car from a new car dealer, Carmax, a used car lot or a private party it is always important to have a trained professional test drive and do a full inspection of the vehicle before you sign on the line. Most auto repair facilities offer pre-purchase inspections during regular business hours and will address any specific concerns you have about your possible new purchase. These inspections can take up to 90 minutes and can cost anywhere from $75.00 to $150.00 depending on where you choose to take your vehicle. This could be money well spent considering if you are planning on dropping $3,000.00 to $20,000 on a used car.  You have to remember that there is no way to predict the future life or component failures of the vehicle. Also it’s important to ask what upcoming maintenance or service items will be due soon.

Ask to get a detailed list of repairs and services performed from the previous owner when ever possible. Get a Car-fax report to tell you of any insurance claims, and accidents this vehicle may have been involved in. A Car-fax also shows the number of ownership transfers, previous smog inspections performed, along with some possible past services, it won’t give you a complete history however may give you information that will sway your decision to make that purchase. Also do your home work, check Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com) online, look on Craigs list (craigslist.com) these will give you an average value for particular vehicles. Research online for common failures for that particular model, check consumer reports and reviews from other vehicle owners, the internet can be your friend.

Remember that many used car lots purchase there cars from auctions, some take them in as a trade in yet others come in from new car dealers that wholesale them to used car lots because they don’t meet their dealer standards. Not even the salesperson you are talking with knows everything about a particular vehicle, as far as they know the car has been thoroughly checked out and is ready to hit the road. We are fortunate to have several used car sales lots, most having been in business for quite a few years here in the Orangevale area along with so many qualified auto repair shops to choose from who can perform a pre-purchase inspection.  

Remember the old sayings “you get what you pay for” and “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is”. These are important especially if you are buying from a private party and the price seems way too low. The first question you need to ask is “does the car you are selling have a clean or salvage title”?  Obviously if it has a salvage title it could be risky.  Cars are only salvaged by insurance companies if the cost of repair out ways the value of the vehicle. So if someone tells you it was only a fender bender or the interior was stolen, you may want to re-consider. Over the years I have come across both very good quality repaired salvaged vehicles and some very dangerous ones …….. these cars deserve a little closer attention when being inspected, remember some problems are intentionally hidden from even the experts while inspecting the car. Good luck with your used car hunting and remember to be patient. If you ever have any questions be sure to call your service and repair professional to get their opinion.

Written By: “The Car Guy”

~Jack