- First decide what model you want, and how much you want to spend.
- Check the used car lots and your local newspaper ads. Privately owned vehicles are usually less expensive, however you will not get a warranty that, in most cases, comes with a used vehicle purchased from a lot.
- Never shop at night. The glare of the lights make it easy to miss faults on the body caused by accident or rust repair.
- Try to get the name and phone number of the previous owner. Contact him/her and ask about the vehicle. If the owner of the lot refuses this information, look for a vehicle somewhere else.
A private seller can tell you about the vehicle and maintenance. Remember, however, there's no law requiring honesty from private citizens selling used cars. There is a law that forbids the tampering with, or turning back of, the odometer mileage. This includes both the private citizen and the lot owner. The law also requires that the seller or anyone transferring ownership of the car must provide the buyer with a signed statement indicating the mileage on the odometer at the time of transfer.
- Write down the year, model and serial number before you buy any used vehicle. Then dial 1-800-424-9393, the toll free number of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and ask if the vehicle has ever been included on any manufacturer's recall list. If so, make sure the needed repairs were made.
- Use the Used Car Checklist in this section and check all the items on the used car you are considering. Some items are more important than others. You know how much money you can afford for repairs, and, depending on the price of the vehicle, may consider doing any needed work yourself. Beware, however, of trouble in areas that will affect operation, safety or emission. Problems in the Used Car Checklist break down as follows:
- If you are satisfied with the apparent condition of the vehicle, take it to an independent diagnostic center or mechanic for a complete check. If you have a state inspection program, have it inspected immediately before purchase, or specify on the bill of sale that the sale is conditional on passing state inspection.
- Road test the vehicle. Refer to the Road Test Checklist in this section. If your original evaluation and the road test agree, the rest is up to you.
1-9: Two or more problems in these areas indicate a lack of maintenance. You should beware.
9-13: Indicates a lack of proper care, however, these can usually be corrected with a tune-up or relatively simple parts replacement.
14-17: Problems in the engine or transaxle can be very expensive. Walk away from any vehicle with problems in both of these areas.