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Buying That Used Car

Updated on January 17, 2015

One of millions....

This Mercury Lynx is not the vehicle in the following case study.
This Mercury Lynx is not the vehicle in the following case study. | Source

Buyer Be Where?

The old car is dying.

Where do you look next.

There are millions out there.

That nice old grandmother's auto?

Not a ding or a dent shows.

Be where the best are.

Know your budget.

Serious Steps You Should Take:

1. Determine what you can afford.

2. Decide what you want.

3. Select your approach.

4. Visually inspect the car.

5. Bargain down the price.

6. See it in writing as to the final price..

7. Check the Blue Book® values.

8. Get and study the vehicle's CARFAX® report.

9. Have a trusted mechanic examine the auto.

10. Examine retail cost, as well as insurance costs, tax, title, license, document charges and any other seller charges once everything is in writing, including any obligations the seller agrees to.

11. Have your own reliable witness present when, and if, you decide to purchase the vehicle.

A Case Study:

A buyer went to a reputable used car lot and told a sales person he was looking for a good used car to purchase in the price range of $2,500 to $4,000, and that he preferred one of several brands, and that it could be automatic or standard shift, with reasonable mileage.

Of the cars he was shown, he chose to focus on a particular sports utility vehicle with an unmarred exterior and clean interior. It was 13 years old with 115,000 miles showing on the odometer.

The dealer was willing to sell it for the $4,000 the buyer had said was his maximum.

The buyer obtained the CARFAX® report and a full list of the actual cost to own the vehicle ($5,091.53.)

The dealer agreed to replace a cracked windshield and a non-functioning defroster/heater fan, do the inspection and emissions test, and process the title and licensing of the car.

The sales person tried his best to get the buyer to buy the car during his initial visit, but the buyer declined, saying that he and his wife, who was not present, always discussed major purchases first and that he would come the next day to take the car to his own mechanic to be examined,

The following day the buyer made several phone calls before returning to the dealership. He spoke to his insurance agent to find out how much his existing auto insurance would cost if he transferred it to cover the potential purchase (an added $350 per year.) He called the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify what the tax, title, and licensing should cost ($360). He checked with another dealer who would be likely to service the car in the future and obtained the Blue Book® values for the vehicle (Low $1,935 and High $4,294.) He verified that the used car dealer would have to replace a cracked windshield and the defroster/heater motor before he could sell the vehicle, as well as have an authorized dealer take care of an open recall on the vehicle for an item that would take about four hours to complete.

With that information, the buyer returned to the used car dealer and drove the car to his mechanic who, by appointment, had agreed to fully inspect the car as soon as the buyer brought it in.

Together the buyer and his mechanic made a list of what problems they could discover in addition to those already known to the buyer. They included that the car still had the original belts, now 13 years old, that the front brakes would barely pass inspection but would soon need replacement, while the rear brakes were worn unevenly and had a brake cylinder that was leaking. The engine mount was loose. The belt cover gasket was showing an oil leakage, and the oil pump was leaking oil. The exhaust system was loose. One of the brake lights was burned out, and one of the headlight covers was so fogged as to give uneven lighting to the road. The dealer would also have had to repair the high beam switch for the headlights.

Given all of the needed and upcoming repairs, as well as what they implied about the care the two previous owners had provided for the vehicle, the mechanic expressed his opinion that the car was not worth the $1,935 low Blue Book® value.

The buyer returned the car to the used car dealer and said that he would be looking elsewhere for the quality of vehicle he still planned to buy at some stage.

He did not provide the name of his mechanic, in order to protect his mechanic's potential for future work that might come to him from the same used car dealer.

The buyer takes his vehicles to his mechanic for service and any needed repairs. His mechanic provided his examination by appointment at no charge, although the buyer volunteered to pay for his work. The mechanic was happy to be of service to a regular customer on a slow day.

The buyer's wife had insisted that to the extent possible any car they purchased should be free of any short term repairs the two of them would have to be responsible for.

The time invested in ruling out this purchase was time well spent.

Good cars are not hard to find, but ruling out the "not so great" cars calls for some effort.



© 2015 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.


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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      aviannovice - An ounce of prevention is worth gallons and gallons of waste.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I was burned on a car from someone that I had purchased three others from. It was not a good experience, and I did not pay for a car that died after a few months.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Ericdierker - My 1988 VW Quantum wagon needs shocks and a new muffler. It has passed the safety inspection and I am waiting on the emissions test to be done this week. I have until March for it to pass both. If it is reasonably expensive, I will stick with my own "used car" which has just 160,000 miles. I was the buyer mentioned in the Case Study.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful job of covering the critical factors. Wow was your buyer thorough. A great story to illustrate what you suggest as rules to follow. Hey and by the way you wrote that story so well -- on such a mondane -- subject that it was a page turner -- I want to know the ending as to what car they bought!

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      BlossomSB - You are very welcome. I hope this is a good help for you.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      sgbrown - The old saying still holds true which says "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

      You have an in-family prevention long as you keep using it.

      Thanks for the affirmation.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thanks for the helpful advice.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 2 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I am very fortunate that my husband is a mechanic and my two step sons work for a large car dealership here where we live. I just purchased a new/used car from there day before yesterday. You have written a very good article here on things to do before buying a used car!

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      annart - How right you are! It's cheaper to have a mechanic before you finalize the purchase, than to visit the mechanic constantly after you buy.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Good advice of course. We've bought a few second-hand cars, privately, and mostly they turn out to be good; my partner gives them a thorough check and in many years we've only had one dud. It's so necessary to know someone you can rely on to point out any faults. There are too many fly boys about.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      FlourishAnyway - A disliked former schoolteacher he promised "a good deal"?

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      That was an excellent case study that proved your point! Many people let emotions get in the way. I once traded in a terrible Buick that had left me stranded five times in three months for overheating and would no longer go more than 35 mph. It also had a huge bump in the floor of the rider's side from where a boyfriend tried to improperly change a tire. However, it looked beautiful. I was buying a new car and assumed the dealer would junk my old car that needed a new transmission. Coworkers told me they had seen a little old lady driving my old car the following week!