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SO YOU WANNA BUY A USED CAR

Forewarned is forearmed

William R. Cayetano

There are some distinct issues involved in the process of buying a used car, many of which stem from the class of the seller, determining a Ďgoodí price, ensuring the vehicle is road worthy and financing options decisions.Is the seller a reputable dealer i.e. well established, doing business at the same location for a long time?

Is the seller a fly-by-night outfit, i.e. popped up yesterday in a less than desirable location where things just plain arenít organized? Feel free to walk away as soon as you can. In fact, right away isnít fast enough! Is the seller a friend, someone you know, someone you can trust or have trusted. Are you buying or attempting to buy from a newspaper ad? Lastly are you attempting to purchase via one of those auction events.

A reputable dealer will in all likelihood, give you a 30 to 90 day warranty on a used car. Be sure to get that warranty in writing. Youíd be absolutely surprised to find how often that little detail is overlooked. Most every other seller will sell you the car as is. Using the local vernacular, Ďthat sucks,í Ďcause you have no recourse once the title has been transferred to your name. If you see a car you like and the price is within the range you can comfortably afford, ask to personally take it to an independent garage and have the mechanic look it over for you. He or she will make a note of all thatís obviously wrong(its never obvious to you the potential buyer), complete an engine diagnostic, which is always a good thing and charge you a fee of up to about $75. Now, at the very least you know what you are getting. You are also now in the position to make an informed decision. Most dealers will gladly reduce the price of the vehicle by the $75 you paid to have it scoped, as long as you provide a receipt of course. If you are buying the car from a friend,

you are on your own but at least have a mechanic look it over again and give

you his/her personal opinion. A detached third party mechanic will inform you if the vehicle has been involved in a serious accident, if the frame is slightly bent, if you could be in for serious repairs, i.e. transmission, engine work and stuff like that. They have no real interest or reason to fool you.

For my money, and this is only a personal observation born of experience, give me a good used Japanese model car (no longer all built in Japan by the way).

They are engineered to last. In fact most Japanese models engines will far outlast the body of the car. Thatís always a reassuring thing. Used Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans or Mazdas top the list of desirable used car purchases (based on facts and figures from J.D. Morganís consumer reports), followed by Daimler/Chrysler products, GM and Ford motor vehicles. (U.S. made cars are finally catching up to the Asian competition). Good used car buys are also available at rental car sales/auctions from Budget, Hertz and others. With the advent of the internet, prices of new and used vehicles are available to everyone. So, get on the net, look up the auto section under MSN.com for instance, go to the make and model under consideration and check out the prices with various options.

Follow that by looking in the classified of your daily newspaper and see what dealers or private owners are asking for the same car. Take the basic average of the two prices to get a good idea of the amount you should pay before you attempt to buy the car. Donít be afraid to tell the dealer or whoever you are buying it from, the price you are willing to pay, particularly if the posted price is that much higher than the price you have in mind or the price you calculated

from the net/newspaper. By the way, the so called blue book used car prices

are also available on the net, or in hard cover books at any bookstore or library. You can be very much prepared to make a good purchase if you do the math in advance. If you are about to spend eight or nine thousand dollars on a car, advanced legwork is a must.

There are good deals in the used car market for 92-97 Honda Civics and Nissan Sentras among others. The lower the mileage the better. One of these vehicles, all else being relatively equal with about 80K miles can still give you five or six good years of service. Make sure you get the service records with the vehicle, that always give me a good feeling about how well the vehicle was taken care of. Finally, as far as financing goes, find out your bankís/credit unionís interest rate before making the purchase. If it is significantly higher than that offered by the dealer/seller, i.e. anywhere from 4 to 6 interests rate points higher, go with the dealerís financing. Financing interest rate decisions have much to do with oneís credit rating of course. Feel free to walk away again if the dealer or bankattempts to rake you over the coals. By that I mean, if the going rate is 10 Ė12% and they are wanting to kick you in the rear for 16-17%, run as fast as you can and as far

away as you can. Young buyers with less than outstanding credit are, quite unfortunately, frequent targets of interest rate gouging. For the youthful buyer, after a loan has been written, before you sign it in agreement, tell the dealer youíd like for your parents to look it over before you commit to it. In most cases theyíll try to tell you they canít do that. Donít hesitate to tell them, well OK, the deal is off. That always gets their attention. Make things go your way, and they will if youíre well armed with facts and figures.

Now go get that ride!


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