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Your “new” car: 3 steps to ensure your used car isn’t a lemon

No matter if you’re buying a used car or a new car, the decision to purchase a vehicle is a big one! While most new car defects are covered under warranty, pre-owned vehicles generally don’t have the same kind of guarantees. Here are some tips to use when buying a used car to make sure you’re not just buying somebody else’s problems!

Buying a used car

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 one 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 need a test drive checklist. 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 for a professional inspection

Be sure to take the used car you’re considering buying to a professional automotive technician for a thorough inspection. If you don’t do anything else at all, please don’t skip this step!

What can an automotive technician find that you can’t spot on your own?A lot! For one thing, an automotive technician has a lift. Being able to put the vehicle up in the air and inspecting 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 mechanic. 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.Tell your automotive 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 the technician explains 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. Their opinion if the asking price is fair.

A negotiation strategy

The secret to negotiating a great deal is that you want to know more about the vehicle than either the owner or dealer! Then you can negotiate the price with real facts.Many of private owners and dealers don’t really know what condition their car is in. Once you tell them the facts and show the pictures they will be 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.” Then say the 6 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!If you would like me to walk you through the whole process, you can download an easy to use, fill-in-the-blanks workbook at

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