SOYOUWANNA BUY A USED CAR?
So the old clunker finally kicked it. It's time to get rid of your '74 Yugo with the pleather interior and purchase something brand spankin' new. Well, maybe not exactly new . . . why not consider buying a used car? You want to save a few dollars, right? You cheap bastard. Well, you've come to the right place, because we can help you make sure that you don't get a lemon. And we're cheaper bastards.
But we must warn you: buying a used car is an annoying process. Reading this article will greatly alleviate your prospective ulcers, but keep in mind that there are lots of things to consider. So read this SYW carefully, clip it out, post it on your refrigerator, and give it a kiss goodnight at bedtime. It will be your new best friend.
Before you hand over your hard-earned cash to a big-toothed, plaid-sports-coat-clad salesman whom you might not entirely trust, you first MUST prepare. The infinite variables that accompany a used car purchase can make this even more difficult. On the preliminary list of "need-to-knows" are a used car's make, model, mileage, and murpose (okay, purpose, but don't you love alliteration?).
Makes and models
Choosing prospective makes and models of vehicles can be a tiring and frustrating process, but if you want a car that will last more than a month, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure your purchase will be a wise one. First, open your eyes! Look around you on the highways and parking lots. What kind of cars do you see most often? If you see a certain vehicle in abundance on the roads, it usually means that the car has a good track record and that it stays on the road longer.
After that less than scientific test, start your own research. There are hundreds of publications that list the reliability of vehicles (both new and used), but only a few publications are to be trusted. Consumer Reports is a periodical that tests the reliability of thousands of products every year, and automobiles are one of their specialties. Take a look at their guide to the most (and least) reliable used cars. Consumer Reports tests important things that you will be unable to do for yourself. For instance, it would be nearly impossible for you to know how many times per thousand miles that the '86 Monte Carlo breaks down.
Obviously, a used car comes with some baggage. Number one on your list of things to be concerned about (before a test-drive) is your mileage preference. Sure, we would all prefer to have a car that is 6 months old and has 5,000 miles on it, but it ain't gonna happen. Set a reasonable goal for yourself regarding mileage and wear-n-tear on your prospective vehicle. Consider things like a factory warranty. A vehicle that is only a couple of years old and has 20,000 miles on it is likely to have a good bit of a factory warranty left on it. Also consider how many miles you're planning to stack on the car. If you're using the car as a back-up, then you don't need to be quite so concerned about mileage, but if you're planning on making it your primary mode of transcontinental transportation, you'd better be sure to get a car with low mileage.
One important note: be wary of vehicles with frighteningly low mileage numbers. A trick as old as "pull my finger," used car salesmen have been known to turn back the mileage on vehicles to make them appear more attractive.
Finally, why do you need this car? If it's reliability that you need, your decision is easy. If you need a reliable family car with dual airbags, seven cupholders, and a four-speed automatic, with maroon shag interior, then it makes your search all the easier. Take into account your needs when you research models so that you know what is standard fare on the vehicle in question. Unlike new cars, used cars cannot usually be ordered to your preference. In some ways, you have to "luck out" to get the ideal vehicle. But keeping your eyes and ears open sure helps. For this reason, you should start your used-car search months before the vehicle need is critical. That way, you can keep your options open (and possibly stumble upon a sweet deal).