Know what to watch for when buying used cars

Josh Blair


Anyone who’s purchased a used car knows it can be a big hassle.

One of the worst things that can happen is finding something wrong with a car a few days after you purchased it. This week’s article aims to help you become better at purchasing a used car.

The first thing you want to find out is the value of the car. There’s two main value books, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) guide, and the Kelley Blue Book, which is available online at

Knowing the value of the car is especially helpful if the owner has too high an asking price. Print out the blue book value, take it with you when you look at the car and they’ll have a hard time arguing against it. Since you get taxed on the NADA value, then they shouldn’t be asking for more.

When looking at a used car it’s always smart to bring along a friend. That way you can have someone to back you up when you point out the problems or attempt to lower the price. It’s easier to talk someone down on a price when it’s two against one.

Although the car may look and sound like it’s in good mechanical order, make sure you ask which parts have been replaced. If it has over 100,000 miles then the brakes, shocks, springs, air filter, spark plugs, ignition wires, fuel filter, transmission fluid and battery should’ve been replaced. If the car is nearing 150,000 miles ask if the timing belt, starter, water pump and alternator have been replaced. If not then these parts may nee replacing soon.

If the seller tries to tack on the price of new parts to the Kelley Blue Book value then they’re wrong. A car in good condition according to the Kelley Blue Book has no major mechanical defects.

If a car will need new parts soon, then the cost of the parts should be deducted from the Blue Book value. The only way a car should get more than Blue Book value is if it’s rare or has extra parts such as a set of winter wheels and tires.

One major thing to look out for is rust. Rust is a cancer that will only get worse. If you see rust on a car, plan on fixing it. Also, make sure to look under the car and in the wheel wells for rust.

It’s always a good idea to run a Carfax report to receive any title, odometer, registration and damage information.

A big part of buying a used car and trying to lower the price is deception. Never act like you’re dying to own the car. Play it cool and say there are a few other cars you’re looking at. If you seem desperate to own the car, then the seller can exploit this and will be able to get a higher price.

Ask the seller how long they’ve been trying to sell the car and if anyone’s looked at it. If the car has been on the market for months and very few people have been interested in it, then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to talk them down. After trying to sell a car for a few months most people want to get rid of it and are willing sell it for a lot less than what they originally planned.

Before you seal the deal, make sure you sleep on it for a couple days. You don’t want to make an impulse buy. Sometimes thinking it over for a day or two can help you make a rational decision.

With these tips hopefully you won’t get screwed the next time you purchase a used car. The only problem left is dealing with the DMV, and I don’t think anyone knows how to deal with that maze of confusion.

Next week, the rebuttal: tips on selling a used car.