Whether you are shopping for a used or new vehicle, many of the guidelines are the same. However, there are also some very distinct differences.

You can purchase a used vehicle through a private party or reputable dealership. Either way, you need to know specifically what to look for and how to ask questions. Most people are honest but unfortunately, there are some that would be perfectly happy with taking your hard-earned money and sending you off in a vehicle with a short life span.

When shopping for a used vehicle, there are some very basic things to help you get started:

  • Use an online classified service such as AutoFinder which will assist you in finding vehicles within your price range and geographical area. They can easily break the list down by private parties and dealerships.
  • Do not ever buy a used vehicle without first obtaining a Carfax used vehicle history report. All you need to do is go to Carfax and within minutes, you will know all types of information such as:
    • :: If the vehicle has been stolen.
    • :: If the vehicle has been wrecked.
    • :: Whether or not the vehicle had the odometer tampered with.
    • :: The number of owners.
    • :: And much more!
  • The cost is a nominal fee of $19.99 per VIN or $24.99 for an unlimited number of reports
  • This is an extremely valuable tool, which could end up saving you thousands of dollars in the end.
  • If not paying cash, before shopping for a used vehicle, always get pre-approved for a loan. This will help in making the transaction haggle-free, and also eliminates the possibility of the vehicle getting sold out from under you while waiting for approval.
  • Strongly consider purchasing an extended warranty. The price for this is usually very reasonable and will protect you from mechanical breakdowns, which could cost you thousands without a warranty. If buying from a private party, you can check out rates online at 1SourceAuto. They offer the best value in the business.

It is true that buying a used vehicle can be somewhat more difficult than a new vehicle. Unfortunately, there are many used vehicles waiting for a new home that should not even be on the market. However, just as there are bad used vehicles, there are also some very reliable ones. There are several specific things you should look for and insist on when buying a used vehicle whether it comes from an individual or a dealership. This is your money and safety, so stand up for your rights. These could be red flags for serious problems:

  • If you see an vehicle with abnormally low mileage for the year it was made, there is a high probability that the odometer has been rolled back, which is illegal in almost every state.
  • A vehicle that is advertised as a "demo" or "executive" should be avoided. These could actually be prior rental vehicles that have been wrecked or driven excessively hard.
  • If a vehicle has been shipped from another state or was a trade-in from a dealer.
  • Never purchase an "As Is" contract.

Once you have chosen a vehicle to buy, you need to ensure that it is in good working order. As a consumer, you have the right to check into the vehicle's history and if at any time the seller refuses you this right, walk away and do not buy.

  • Insist on reviewing the vehicle's repair record and maintenance costs and history. If the seller does not have these, simply ask them where they have their vehicle serviced so you can obtain the records there. This will allow you to see the actual mileage as well as any repairs made. One of the oldest tricks in the book is turning back odometers to reduce the actual number of miles. However, by viewing the history, you will be able to confirm the mileage showing is accurate.
  • If you are not a qualified mechanic, have a trusted mechanic provide a thorough check of the vehicle to include engine, chassis, transmission, brakes, steering, exhaust, and any other major operating parts.
  • You might also request your mechanic to check the vehicle when the engine is cool. If an engine is hot, there is the possibility that the seller may be disguising cold running noises or starting problems. If you look at the vehicle and the engine is hot, rev up the engine hard and check the exhaust for blue smoke. When you do this, if black smoke comes out of the exhaust do not even consider buying the vehicle.
  • Look at the vehicle to see if you notice any unmatched or new paint. This could be an indication that it was wrecked. � Take a step back from the vehicle and determine if the bumper is straight. If not, this is another indication that it may have been wrecked.
  • Take a good look at the tires. Are they worn? Now it is true that worn tires can easily be replaced, but they could also indicate potential wheel alignment problems and history of the vehicle being wrecked.
  • Go over the vehicle carefully for any signs of body filler, rust repairs, and dents. If you spot any buckling, that is an indication that it has been wrecked. Also, look for consistent gaps in the panels.
  • Another thing to look for is an oversized sunroof. This is a known trick to try to disguise roof cut or damage.
  • Above all, do not hesitate to ask a ton of questions and be wary if the seller is not willing to answer all of them.

The most favorable way of paying for a used vehicle is with cash, if possible. This will promise an easier transaction and can actually work in the buyer's favor when going through the negotiation process. It is not uncommon to offer $2,000 cash for a vehicle advertised at $2,300 and have the seller accept it.


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