Where To Find A Used Car

Tips and advice on how the save the most when shopping for a used vehicle.
By Zach Bowman
In 2005, the U.S. had nearly 250 million registered vehicles, so there's no shortage of cars with more character than clear coat. The tricky part is finding a good deal while not buying your way into someone else's nightmare. Shopping around, researching your purchase and being patient can put you in a good auto that will last.

Visiting only your local dealerships can be convenient time wise, but doing so limits your options. Many people don't realize the number of used car venues available to them, and the marvel of the Internet provides several sites devoted specifically to this purpose.

The Internet can give you access to nearly every car in every color imaginable, but it too brings its own pitfalls. Besides the rare possibility of getting scammed, it's easy to talk yourself into a vehicle that's only two states away. That may seem like a hop down the road on Google Maps, but transporting a vehicle across long distances can add hundreds of dollars to your final cost, not to mention out of state titling headaches.

Searching for vehicles within your state will save you money and let you check out the car before you buy it. Don't be afraid to take a road trip to take a look at a prospective purchase. What looks good in pixels may not be so hot in person.

If the web fails to yield a perfect match, there are other options at your disposal. Perusing the classifieds from papers in your area may turn up the one that was meant for you. Don't put off calling the number in the newsprint, though. Classified cars tend to go quick.

While there are many good places to find a used car, there are a few spots that might be best to avoid. Everyone has seen the used car lot next to a body shop. Odds are that the litter of strays beside those shops has been created, Frankenstein like, out of their less fortunate siblings.

In the same vein, cars that have been sent out to pasture by rental companies should probably be avoided. While those cars are usually perfectly maintained, the amount of abuse they suffer at the hands of renters is epic. Their bad history will end up being your sad future.

When you've searched all you can and still haven't found a vehicle, take a breath. The best way to trap yourself in a car you hate is to think you need one right now. Take your time, you'll most likely be owning this vehicle for years to come. Doing so may mean the difference between being glad to be behind the wheel or cringing at the thought of that daily grind of a commute.


Top Ten Tips For Buying A Used Car

Take your time:
Patience isn't just a virtue; it'll keep you from making a rash decision you'll regret.

Shop around:
The more options you have the more likely you are to find a car you'll like.

Trust your gut:
If you get a bad feeling about a car or a seller, back away. There are plenty of other cars to pick from.

Check the oil:
If it's pitch black, or if the dipstick looks burnt or charred, the car probably has had a spotty maintenance history.

Check out the interior:
Is it dirty and stained? How someone takes care of the interior of their vehicle is a good indication of how well they maintained the car.

Spend some time with the vehicle:
A test drive around the block isn't enough time to decide whether or not you're going to be satisfied with a car for the next few years.

Do your homework:
The more you know about the make, model and trim, the more likely you'll be able to spot a problem.

Bring a friend:
Someone else is more likely to be critical of your purchase, and possibly spot something you wouldn't.

Don't feel pressured:
Just because the dealer or seller says he has a line of people waiting for the car doesn't necessarily mean he does.

Get it checked out:
Take your prospective purchase to an independent shop to get a second opinion. The AAA is a good resource for this type of service.


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