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December 29, 2008

Top Tips for Finding the Best Used Car

How-to-buy-a-great-used-car It's bad enough that it takes so much time and trouble to find a used car. However, nothing could be worse then purchasing a vehicle that starts to fall apart a short time after you take it home. Educated consumers are a used car seller's worst nightmare. Knowing more about the vehicle than the seller tells you is the secret ingredient to buying a great used car, negotiating a great deal and avoiding a nightmare!

Here are three important steps you can take to help you buy a great used car.

Woman-car-keys Step 1: Do Your Homework.
Know what you're looking for before you even pick up a paper, turn on the computer, or step foot onto a car lot. Know what your budget is, how you're going to pay for the vehicle, and research the safety and reliability of various makes and models to figure out what you want.

Step 2: The Preliminary Inspection.
It's imperative that you do a preliminary inspection to decide if this vehicle is even worthy of your consideration.

It is essential that you have a checklist with you so you know what to look over on the car. You want a checklist that is easy to use. One that tells you what to look for and you only have to answer: Yes / No or Good / Bad.

If the vehicle passes your inspection then you also need a test drive checklist. If you would like more information and the checklists you need for your preliminary inspection, you can come to my website and download a FREE copy of my 72-page workbook "How To Buy A Great Used Car."

Once you have found that special vehicle that you are interested in buying, then it is time for the most important step!

Step 3: Take the vehicle to a professional auto technician for a thorough inspection.
If you don't do anything else at all, please don't skip this step!

What can a technician find that you can't spot on your own?

A  LOT! For one thing, a technician has a lift. Being able to put the vehicle up in the air and inspect the undercarriage is invaluable. They will be able to take off the tires to do a more in-depth inspection of the brake system, the steering and suspension system, the exhaust system, and much more. They do this every day. They have the inside knowledge of which cars have chronic troubles and their expert eyes will spot problems you might have overlooked.

If you're serious about buying a particular vehicle, let the seller know that the sale is contingent upon the inspection by your auto technician. If a dealer or private owner won't let you take a vehicle to your technician to have it checked out - RUN AWAY! An inspection can't harm the vehicle, and if the seller is uncooperative about making it available for an inspection they probably have something to hide.

Woman-with-keysTell your auto technician that you need them to give you the following information.
1. A written report stating the condition of the vehicle.
2. If they think it is a good one, then you also want a cost estimate for all necessary repairs and services the vehicle needs to be safe and reliable. The estimate should include the vehicle's year, make, model, VIN number and mileage.
3. Make sure they explain everything to you, so you understand all the problems and what would need to be done to make the car safe and reliable if you were to purchase it.
4. If the shop has a digital camera, have them take pictures of any problems or consider loaning them your camera. As they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words!"
5. Ask their opinion if the asking price is fair.
Many technicians may offer this service, but don't expect them to provide it for free. Remember, such an inspection takes their time and expertise, and they should be compensated for the expert advice they are providing you.

The secret to negotiating a great deal is that you want to know more about the vehicle then the owner or dealer! Then you can negotiate the price with real facts!

A large amount of private owners and dealers don't really know what condition their car is in. Once you tell them the facts and show them the pictures, most are embarrassed. Tell them, "Even though it needs all this work, I'd still like to buy it. But, I'm going to have to come up with X amount of dollars for all the repairs and maintenance work so this car will be a safe vehicle for my family." Now say the six magic words: "What can you do for me?" Then be quiet! If you don't say anything, they may lower the price for you.

If you're looking at a used car on a dealer's lot that has their own service department, they may not be interested in lowering the price, but they may offer to do the work FREE of charge and again, this is a bonus!

So, do your research ahead of time, do a preliminary inspection to find a decent vehicle and most importantly, take it to a professional mechanic to get a thorough inspection. Then you will be in control of the buying process, you will have the knowledge needed to negotiate a great deal and you will purchase a Great Used Car that will be a safe and reliable for many years!

Amy-Mattinat-with-a-tool Happy Motoring
Amy Mattinat
Check out my blog at

Amy Mattinat is delighted to be a female friendly expert advisor on the board of, helping us to provide excellent car care tips and advice for women. Encouraged to "spread the word," Amy writes a monthly newsletter at, and has written both newspaper and magazine columns on automotive repairs, maintenance, car care, and safety. After selling used cars for six years, she has also written an easy-to-use manual, "How To Buy A Great Used Car," available at She believes that everyone deserves to purchase a quality car no matter what their budget is. They just need to do their "homework!" She is a board member on the education committee for the Women's Car Care Council, belongs to WAAI (Women's Automotive Association International), and AWARE (Advancing Women in Automotive Retail Enterprises).

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