Used car salesmen are notorious smooth talkers. The good ones can sell convertibles mid-winter in Alaska. You must be prepared to haggle for your life when stepping onto the lot. So is it really worth it? Well, yes. According to loan information provider Bankrate.com, new autos lose around 20 percent of their value as soon as they leave the lot. And each year after that: deduct another 20 percent. So used cars can be a bargain for a buyer if you pick the right one. Here are some tips to help you avoid a lemon.
One way to lower your chances of purchasing a bomb is to only consider cars that are manufacturer certified. Certified automobiles have been inspected, repaired and tuned-up by dealer mechanics. You also should get a nice long warranty covering the necessities.
The National Automobile Dealer Association publishes the NADA Official Used Car Guide (nadaguide.com). This manual, as well as the Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com), lists quotes of cars and trucks at all levels of quality.
Write down the vehicle identification number (VIN) and check out the history of the car at CarFax.com or Autocheck.com. Ask the dealer for any information on the prior owner. Information you will want to know includes what driving conditions the car has gone through (Los Angeles traffic for example), what weather it has lived in, and if it has been in any accidents.
Do your own inspection. Take the car for a test drive and put it to the test. No driving on the 25 MPH neighborhood streets. Take it for a spin on the freeway and on the type of roads where you do your driving. Listen for any rattles or pings. Make sure everything works. If you have a mechanic, stop by and get a quick check up. Make sure you get the tires, engine, undercarriage and frame looked at.