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Secrets Of Buying A Used Car - Part 2

Assess Value (Continued)
Do a physical assessment. It's never a good idea to buy without a personal inspection. Get a mechanic to come with you if you can, but if you can't, try to have at least a good mechanic give you a briefing on what to look for, with some hands-on examples if possible! Here are a few things that will be on any inspection list:

Check the exterior for physical body damage, such as dents and scratches. Look especially for spots where rust may have formed. If you see such areas, inquire with the current owner or seller about how they got there and how long they've been there. Be skeptical if they can't provide an adequate response.

Look under the body for any damage to the undercarriage. Look for leaks, such as gas or other fluid leaks, and check for excessive rusting. These areas are a primary concern, and a vehicle with a gas leak is extremely dangerous to drive, as it can be a fire hazard.

Look under the hood and check for damage to the engine. Have the owner turn the engine on while the hood is open, and look and listen for any trouble areas, such as strange noises, excessive vibration, and smoke.

While under the hood, check the spark plugs and the battery. Worn spark plugs can mean your engine will have issues starting, especially in cold weather. Batteries will also tend to leak battery acid when they get older. Look at the cable connectors to the battery to ensure that they are in good condition. If you see a greenish, crumbly-looking material, this means the battery is leaking acid, and the connectors may have been weakened and in need of replacement. Ask about the age of the battery and the spark plug.

Also while under the hood, check the timing belt and transmission fluid. Transmission fluid should be pink or red, potentially dark, but should never smell burnt. Burned transmission fluid is a bad sign. The timing belt should not be worn and should fit well.

Check the tires for wear and tear. Tires can be expensive to change, so excessive tire wear matters. Check the tire tread to see if the tires are worn down or unevenly worn. Uneven wear is an indication of an alignment issue, which can be expensive to resolve.

Check the inside of the vehicle, with the engine turned on. Check the odometer for the current mileage, and check to make sure that the mileage adds up to a vehicle history report. If it appears the vehicle has far fewer miles than it should, this may be an indication of odometer tampering. Look carefully at the dash area, water level, RPM indicator, interior lighting, lights and other areas controlled from inside the cabin.

Always go for a test ride! Never purchase a vehicle that you haven't driven. It's important to get out on the road. A test drive can help you know whether it feels right behind the wheel, whether the brakes work, how it sounds when it accelerates and runs, and whether the steering feels smooth. You can also test for alignment issues here by seeing if the steering pulls to one side or the other on a straight road.

Closing the Deal
Be ready to negotiate. The seller may have a listed price, but dealerships are willing to negotiate on prices, especially if you come prepared with cash on hand.

Remember your budget in this case. Know how high you are willing to go, but never tell that number to the seller. Instead, try to negotiate the listed price downward toward a more favorable direction. You may also include some benefits, like paying for the title transfer and driving the car off the lot instead of asking for delivery as incentives to lower the price.

Always see how far they're willing to drop the price, and be ready to walk away. In many cases, the sellers may be desperate to make a deal and will give in if they feel that you're willing to look elsewhere. Be aware that private sellers are usually less likely to budge on a price than dealerships.

If you are buying at an auction, never bid higher than your budget price. Avoid the temptation to get into a bidding war. These can easily result in your making a commitment to spend far more than you originally intended.

Finally, never fall in love with any car! It's important to remember that there are millions of cars out there, and a car is a tool you're using to make your life better. All vehicles depreciate, meaning you're going to be buying another one down the road. If you feel too strongly about a purchase, it makes you easier to manipulate, and more likely to make a deal you will come to regret later.

Stepping into the used car market can seem like an overwhelming challenge, especially if you're not a car expert. Take a deep breath, relax, and be methodical. The vehicle you need is out there, and if you follow the right steps, you can find it!