Choose a Used Car Carefully

Parked Cars

The used car market is diverse. Your selection includes every possibility from one- or two-year-old models with part of the manufacturer's warranty remaining to high mileage clunkers and lots of problems.

One way to ensure you get the best quality for the price is to look for Certified Used Vehicles. To be certified a used car must pass a thorough mechanical and physical inspection, which is completed by the dealer.

Your other option is to have the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic. Examine it carefully because when you buy a used car, you buy all the vehicle's problems, squeaks, rumbles, defects, dents and scratches. If the seller is not willing to allow you to do this, walk away.

A key to deciding to buy a used car is to remember that the minute you drive off the lot, your car is a used vehicle. This means you will see an immediate drop in value – also known as depreciation. This is an important factor to consider when you learn that the average used car value is less than half the average price of a new car.
Used cars initially have a much smaller impact on the family budget, they generally cost more to maintain over the long haul. Since wear and tear have already taken a toll on your car, a comprehensive service contract may help you avoid financial disaster when the car needs a major repair. However, you need to choose wisely, many extended warranty contracts – especially on used vehicles – are not what they are chalked up to be.

Used Car Buying Resources

You can research used cars online at Consumer Reports and at auto pricing guides like, or information can help you find the fair retail price for car or truck you are considering before you walk onto the lot or contact the seller. These tools can help you make adjustments for mileage, mechanical condition and appearance. If you are dealing with a dealer than you should aim for the a price somewhere between the trade-in and retail value. The retail value is set based on a car or truck in excellent condition, which very few used vehicles qualify as. When buying from an individual, shoot for the good condition "private sale" value.

Lemon Laws and Clean Titles

Many states offer lemon laws. These laws vary from state to state, but in general they give car buyers a short time frame in which to return the vehicle due to mechanical issues or unfulfilled contractual issues.

One of the best ways to avoid buying a lemon and the associated problems is to do a background check on the vehicle's title. This may reveal hidden problems in a vehicle's past that may affect safety and resale value. There are several companies which provide this service at a cost ranging from $29 to $45. The most recognizable service is CARFAX. If you do use this service be sure to deal with a firm that offers a guarantee so you don't wind up paying thousands of dollars more than the actual value of the specific car.

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