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Buying a Used (or New-To-You) Car
Buying a Used Car... Saving Money
If you don't require a brand new car, this is a great time to find a used car. I recommend buying a car that is used or slightly used from a reputable dealer. There is, in general, a 10% down rule that may apply. But the dealer might work with you if you have good credit or your dealer is someone you know personally, as in a smaller town dealership.
Recently, I found a dealership that will buy used cars from the local Enterprise car rental franchise. So these "used" cars have 20-30 thousand miles on them, still have the new car smell and are at a fraction of the cost. It is easier to save money towards a car that is only $10,000 than for the same car that is $30,000 when it is brand new. And you can get a car that is only 1-2 years old, practically new.
When buying from a dealer, you can always bring the car back in the event that the car ends up being a lemon. Thank God for Ralph Nader who helped our nation by inventing the "Lemon Law". Whenever you buy a car that ends up having serious mechanical difficulty or for whatever reason does not live up to what was claimed, you are protected under the law and can bring it back for a refund.
You may also ask around when looking for your new-to-you car. Ask co-workers, family, friends and neighbors if they have seen any really great cars available for sale from people they know. Also you can look in the want ads in your local newspaper, independent papers, on-line classified ads, http://www.Craigslist.org in your city, and even on Ebay. Remember, "Buyer Beware!" and do your due diligence! Bring a mechanic with you to check out your car when buying from private owners. It may be worth the $25-$50 dollars to pay a mechanic for his time if you are serious about a car that is really used. This will save you hassles in the long run, to know what is needed to be fixed and what it will cost you.
Sweet Auction Ride!
What to Keep in Mind... Hidden Costs...
When shopping around for a car, you will want to know about potential hidden costs about the vehicle before you buy it. For example, you will want to know what the gas mileage is and what this will cost you. In my city, gas prices are still rising and were at $3.24 per gallon for regular fuel. This is an important point to keep in mind if you do a lot of driving or take road trips a couple times per year.
Also you will want to know if your car is potentially going to cost you at the 20,000 mile mark on your odometer. Check out Car and Driver, Kelley Blue Book on-line or any other car related websites that can help you understand what "typical" parts will breakdown in your car specifically. Some makes and models were built with a weak starter or need an alternator earlier than usually expected. Also it is a good idea to know how many miles you can go before your transmission gives out. Always try to buy a low-mileage car for this reason.
Another hidden cost that most people completely overlook is the car insurance. Not all vehicles will be rated the same. We all know that a Toyota will be less insurance cost per month than a Ferrari, but what about the average cars? A week ago I was speaking with my Farmer's Insurance Agent(*) and he was telling me that I should call him before buying a car to ask what the insurance will be on it and if I would be willing to pay the price. What great advice! I never would have thought of this. According to Mr. Currier, some Hondas would cost more than typical luxury cars, all depending on the year, make and model. Even he said he was surprised at some of the insurance rates for what he would consider "average vehicles". Also, please be aware that just because the lizard is cute, they will not necessarily save you more money. Shop around for a good car insurance agent and ask about discounts for good drivers, married couples and also if you are a college student sometimes there will be a discount if you have good grades.
Keep an ongoing budget for your car once you have made a decision and have purchased your new/used car to provide for any costs that you have not foreseen, or any repairs that may come up.
Well I wish you good luck this year if you are looking for a new or semi-new car.
May you always drive off into the sunset happily and hassle-free...
(PS. Happy & Prosperous New Year 2011 to you too!)