Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
Our 17-year-old son wants to buy a used car with the money that he has saved from his job after school. It will be his first car, and we've looked at quite a few used cars. How old is too old for a car? Any useful tips?
Driving me crazy
Dear Driving me crazy,
Generally, it is not the age of the car, but how many miles it has been driven that is most important. Research is very important before buying a car, new or used. Below are used car buying tips.
Used Car Buying Tips
1. Budget: how much do you have to spend? Include in the budget not only the car price, but also the increase in car insurance, upkeep of the car, gasoline and maintenance.
2. Research cars online: see prices of used cars within your budget, read reviews and safety ratings. A good place to start for used car prices is the National Automobile Dealers Association at www.NADA.com
3. Car safety ratings online:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at http://www.safercar.gov/
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at http://www.iihs.org/
4. Buying from a dealership or private party? If from a private party, always check the car's history before purchasing. You will need the VIN ((Vehicle Identification Number) in order to purchase a vehicle history report. This information is vital if buying from a private party because the report will tell you if the car is stolen, severely damaged, salvaged, or has a lien. Also, compare the title and VIN to make sure that they match. Know what's required in your state to transfer title of the car.
5. Basic information about a used car:
a. Year, make, model
b. Number of miles
c. Condition of the car: any accidents, one or multiple owners.
d. Amenities: do you want air conditioning, how important is a CD player, manual or automatic transmission, cruise control?
6. Always examine and test drive the car during the day.
a. Test drive the car on a variety of surfaces including the freeway. Keep the radio off in order to hear any rattles, squeaks, or vibrating.
b. Is the car smooth when accelerating?
c. Do the brakes work fine?
d. Does the car drift?
e. How is the turning radius?
f. Is the ride comfortable for the driver? Is there enough leg and head room?
g. Do the doors, hood, and trunk open and close fine?
h. Walk around the car and look for dings, scratches, and rust.
i. Examine the tires for uneven wear. Is there a spare tire? Is there a jack or other tools?
j. Notice how the car smells inside the car and trunk.
k. Check the oil: fluid level, color of oil should be smooth medium brown, not black.
l. Look under the car for any leaks or rust. Use a flashlight.
m. Tailpipe: note any rust or black soot.
n. Interior: play the radio and CD player to make sure they work. Is the upholstery or leather in good shape? Do electric windows, locks, side view mirrors work?
7. If seriously considering buying the car, then take it to your mechanic. The mechanic will be able to inspect the body, frame, engine, and odometer for tampering.
8. Negotiate the price:
a. Make an offer lower than your spending limit and deduct any work that the car may need.
b. Move up to you maximum spending limit in small increments.
c. Be prepared to walk away. You could get a call back agreeing to your set price.