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The BBB receives hundreds of calls and consumer complaints every year about used car purchases. Follow these tips to avoid unexpected expense and disappointment:
Shop around. Do your research. Take your time.
- Check out the values of several makes and models in your price range. Most public libraries have vehicle value guide books available at no charge to look up prices, such as the Kelley Blue Book or the NADA Used Car Price Guide.
- Check with your bank, credit union or other lender whether you qualify for a loan, and how much you can get. Remember, you may get a better used-car loan rate from your financial institution than from a dealer.
When you find a car you like, take your time, ask questions, and check it out.
- Test-drive the vehicle, and take it to your mechanic for inspection. Never buy a car without test-driving it first, and never buy a car from someone who won't let you take it to a mechanic for a pre-sale inspection.
- Research the car's history. For a fee, private services like Carfax and Autocheck may be able to tell you whether the vehicle has ever been titled as salvage, flood-damaged, or rebuilt, or if it has ever had an odometer mileage discrepancy.
- Check out the repair history for the make and model. The spring auto issue of Consumer Reports magazine lists repair histories for various used-car makes and models. The Internet also has a great deal of information about used cars.
- Check the paperwork on the car before signing a contract to purchase. Examine the odometer and damage disclosure statements.
- Offer a fair price, and focus on the total purchase price. (If you focus only on the monthly payment amount, you may end up paying more than the car is worth.)