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Easy Steps: How to Find Good Used Cars and Avoid The Lemon


I work in the auto industry and a question i am asked over and over by friends and family is:
"Whats the best way to go about finding good used cars?"
Many of us chose to buy used cars. It can make a lot of sense. As you know new cars can lose up to 30% of their value in the first 2 years. If you end up needing to sell that new car too soon you will have wasted all that money.
The only problem is that buying used cars can be a mine field of errors. You need to know your stuff. You also need sharp wits and to understand the pitfalls. The truth is that we are not all mechanics and we don't all have the eye for knowing the bad from the good used car.
Today I will share some steps and tricks that will improve the chances of you making a sound choice. There is a lot to know about used cars, but with the following ideas, you will be well on your way.
Why Buy Good Used Cars?
Take advantage of the depreciation. When you buy a used car, that is a few years old, you have saved yourself the 20%-30% value loss on that car. Someone else has paid that for you. You have reduced the risk of burring yourself in that car financially. If for some reason you need to sell the car again sooner then planned, you will be in a far better position.

Take your pick! When you buy used, there are many different things that can effect price. You will have way more options in terms of model, brand, age, mileage. You have the option of buying a car that you normally could not afford if it was brand new off the car lot. You can really set any budget and shop with in that budget. You could literally spend $2,000 or $200,000 on a used car. Every city is ripe with a vast selection of used cars in good condition.
Something new in the used car department each day. The used car market is always changing. It means that there are always different cars to find and choose from. Most Victoria dealers will have fresh inventory each month. Often you can find the new inventory right at home with your computer. There are also tonnes of private sales listed each day.
Should You Buy Used Cars Privately Or From A Dealer?
There are advantages in choosing to work with a dealer, as well as a private owner.
Private sale used car advantages:
You can sometimes find great deals in the private sale listing. With some patience and time, online you can find the good deals. Many sellers online are doing it because they are under the gun and need the cash fast.
Often, private owners are not as aggressive when it comes to talking about numbers and the process. Private owners will allow you to take things at your own pace. Most car salesmen will try and move you to make a choice as soon as they can. This unneeded pressure can be avoided by finding a reliable salesmen or staying in the private market.
Dealer Advantages:
You can save a ton of time if you go to a Used Car Dealer. They will have way more selection in one place. As much as we don't like the sales process, one thing it does is save time. The key is finding a reliable sales person. One who actually cares about you. Talking to someone about what kind of car you need, then driving, and then talking about numbers all in one day means you can rule a car in or out with in a few hours.
Used car dealer in many areas must declare auto Dec's. They will have documents such as a Car Proof or Car Fax and safety inspections on hand. These are valuable documents that many private sellers overlook. They are hard proof of a vehicles history.
Private Used Car Disadvantage
Most people sell a car in private so they can get as much for it as possible. If they didn't care about getting the most they could then they would have sold it to a dealer. Most people will shop privately because they feel they can get a better deal then if they went to a dealer. In most cases, private car shoppers and private car sellers, are further apart on price then car dealers and car shoppers. Often private sellers are far more emotionally attached to their car then dealer is and have a inflated idea of its value.
Dealer Disadvantage
Very often dealers will have extra costs attached to the sale of a used car. They will also want you to purchase extra warranties and products. Many of these products may not suit your life or needs. Be mindful of what you are signing for. Don't be afraid to ask early what the extra fees will be and what they are for. Many of the products are of use in curtain situations. Once you have listened to and understood what the extras are, make a rational choice as to whether you need them or not.
How to pick the right car.
Car Proof or Car Fax! Do not buy a used ca, private or at a dealer, unless you have read the Car Proof/Car Fax. The Car Proof, is a history report that will tell you if the car has been repaired due to collisions. It will also let you know if it was an x-rental, x-lease or has been registered out of the province. It will also give an overview of some of the major maintenance work and were it was done. This document is a must for buying used vehicles. Most dealers will have one available.
If you are shopping privately and the owner does not have one. Tell the owner that you won't buy unless a car proof is provided.
  1. Look under the car. Get down and a little dirty. Check under the vehicle for rust. Rust is a killer. Look at the shocks, and in the engine compartment as well.

  2. Open up the hood. Most used car dealers will have cleaned the engine very well. There are still signs you can find. Look for leeks, rust, and wear and tear. Start the car with the hood open. When the engine is cold it will reveal the most. Get out again and look at the engine while it is running. Listen for squeaks, whines, ticking and other odd sounds.

  3. Inspect the inside well. Use your nose. Sniff and sniff some more. Often strong perfumes, and fresheners will be used if the car had mold, dogs, and smokers.

  4. Lift the floor mats and check for moisture. Also check the spare tire compartment. Again, look for rust and moisture in these spots.

  5. Take it for a drive. Before you get going to fast, put the car in neutral and give it some gas. Keep an eye on the mirrors and what comes out the back. You don't want to see big plumes of smoke.

  6. The drive should cover different roads. Highways, back roads, some bumps as well. When its safe, let go of the wheel on a straight road. See if the steering is aligned. Over bumps, listen for squeaking and other noises.

  7. When you get back, park over a clean section of the lot/driveway. Then turn the car off. This is when you will look over some of the paper work. After about 15 minutes go back to the car and look under the engine. See if there are any wet marks on the driveway or lot. After the car has been running any leaks will start to drip. If they do. Don't buy the car.
At this point you should know if the car is in the running or not. Most reputable Car Dealers will have done an inspection of the car. You should have access to the report. Look over it and see if everything checks out. If its a private sale and you like the car, now would be a good time to schedule a third party inspection.
One final note, TRUST YOUR GUT!. If you have done the steps listed you should have a solid idea weather the car you are looking at is in good running shape.
Don't be afraid to drag a friend along. Someone you know will be very objective about the whole thing. They can give some feed back and their opinion. Let them know that all you want is their impression of the car, not whether you should buy it or not.
There are tonnes of other steps, tricks and tips that I did not cover. If you have any ideas to add, please do in the comment section. Any thing you could add so save someone from buying the dreaded lemon will help.
I hope this instill your confidence to get out there and start looking for that good used car.
Find More Great Tips on Buying New or Used Cars
Mish Peden shares his knowledge from with in the Auto Industry!

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