2011-01-28 / Community

Beware Of Fraud: 2011 Used Car Buying Tips

Three out of four cars purchased in 2010 were used cars, which often proved to be a smart financial decision for buyers, since new cars can lose 20 to 40 percent of their value in their first year. But used cars by their very nature have a history, whether it was a Toyota Camry owned by a grandmother or a Ford F-150 driven by a traveling salesman. Before you buy, you’ll want to make sure your potential purchase is as good as it seems.

Buying a used car is a significant investment, but with a little preparation, information gathering and a good plan, even a first-time buyer can shop with confidence.

“The Internet offers so much information to consumers, from models and options to reliability and reviews. Information is the key to making a good buy on a used car,” said Jim Yates, president and CEO of Alliance Inspection Management (AiM) , who previously was a Vehicle Remarketing executive for Nissan. “Getting information on a specific vehicle, its history and condition can make the difference between getting a great buy or ending up with a lemon.”

AiM provides used vehicle inspections for consumers, manufacturers and dealers, and their staff of 500 inspectors knows what buyers and sellers are looking for in a used car. Here are some of Yates’ tips to help you get a good buy on a used car:

• Do your homework

The Internet has made finding used cars easier than ever before, and many websites offer pricing and option information. Kbb.com and Edmunds.com are two of the best known, with extensive databases on the new and used car markets, including pricing and safety information, and they can help locate sellers in your area offering a specific make or model you’re looking for. Most dealerships have websites listing used cars that include photos, specifications and prices, while individual sellers often list vehicles online at websites such as Craigslist.org or Autotrader.com. Consumer Reports is an excellent resource for vehicle reliability information.

• Narrow your choices

Consider your wants, needs and day-to-day routine. How will you utilize your car? Will it be a freeway commuter to work and back? How much room is needed for passengers or cargo? Do your hobbies require extra room or special features like 4WD? Is fuel economy more important than high performance? What body style do you prefer: 4-door, 2-door, hatchback, sedan, coupe, SUV, truck, or sports car? Narrowing your search to a few models will simplify everything.

• Get pre-approved for a loan

Get a copy of your credit report, which will determine how much money a bank or credit union will loan you. Good credit or not, you’ll be better off knowing what you can afford to pay for a car, which you’ll learn when you get pre-approved for a loan.

• Ask good questions

How long have you owned the car? Where was this car bought? Why are you selling the car? Can I take it for a test drive? Are you willing to let me get an independent inspection? Asking good questions could tip you off to a seller who’s less than forthright.

• Get a vehicle history report

Vehicle history reports provide information on the car from state and local agencies. Information such as a vehicle’s mileage, accident records, title history, odometer inconsistencies and frame or water damage can all be found in a history report. AutoCheck and CarFax are two of the leading vehicle history report products available to consumers.

• Get the vehicle inspected

Unless you’re a trained automotive expert, invest in a professional used car inspection before you spend your hard-earned cash to buy a car. AiM Mobile Inspections (http://www.aimmobileinspections.com ) conducts a 150-point inspection that can reveal undisclosed body work, major component repairs or replacements, fluid leaks, uneven tire wear or other trouble. AiM performs inspections at homes or offices, delivers a complete report online usually within 48 hours after inspection, and will also package an inspection with a vehicle history report.

• Don’t rush

A used car purchase is a major financial decision. Don’t let a salesman pressure you with claims that “this car won’t last long” or “you won’t find a better deal.” People who buy on impulse often later regret their decision. Comparison shop. If a deal seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason. Tell the seller you’re going to have the car inspected – this will often make the seller more forthcoming about a vehicle’s history. Then be sure to get a vehicle history report.

By taking your time and knowing what’s available at what price in your area, you’ll be prepared to make a well-informed buying decision and have peace of mind knowing you made the right move.

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