Thursday, June 28, 2007

Used Cars deal tip

Make a listing and stop it twice for used cars Yep, another listing, but this one is a little distinct. Now it's moment to discover real candidates for purchase. This listing might include some of the same cars you looked at during your test-fit hunt, but get backwards to those websites and your local paper and yield the biggest listing you can. Note that new-car dealers will mostly get the better candidates -- cars that were used for test-drives or that have been newly returned by folk who leased them -- and these are frequently offered under maker "certificate" programs that include a warranty. Make these your best stopover.

When I go used car shopping, I usually try to figure out if there are any colors I can't live with and any features I can't live without. Of course, the market has a way of calling my bluff -- I once decided I could live with my target car in any color except yellow as long as it had a manual transmission, only to immediately find a beautifully maintained yellow one that had every single option I wanted, just the way I would have ordered it from the factory, at a great price. I spent a weekend hemming and hawing over the color, only to go back with my checkbook and find that it had been sold. I ended up with a dark red one that worked out well, but I paid more for it. The moral: Make sure you really know where you can (and can't) compromise.
The large tryout: Test-drives Test-driving, with that salesperson in your cheek, can be a fraught experience if you're not prepared. Before you get, learn our test-drive primer and go the Foolish Test-Drive Vow: No buying today! No issue what, wear't let stories of particular one-day offers and new buyers who are purportedly expected backwards any microscopic lure you into taking away your checkbook. Really, get read that primer and have certain you know precisely what you're going to tell when the salesperson starts his song and dancing act.

Making the deal
Have you found it? The green one with the twincam engine and the good stereo? The one that meets all of your needs and most of your wants? Congrats, Fool ... but hang on a minute. This is a used car, so we can't just make the deal and drive it home. You need to know what you're getting. If it's "certified" by a new-car dealer, make sure you understand the terms of the warranty. Some certification warranties, particularly those from luxury brands like Toyota's (NYSE: TM) Lexus division, General Motors' (NYSE: GM) Cadillac, and BMW, are very broad and rival new-car warranties from cheaper brands -- including cheaper brands from the same manufacturer. Others may sound good, but their long-term coverage might be limited to "powertrain" problems, which are far less common than, say, warped brake rotors.

Sometimes independent used-car dealers who specialize in just-off-lease luxury models will offer an extended warranty package that compares well with "certification" programs. (And occasionally, you'll find a car that is still covered by the balance of its original factory new-car warranty.) But often, the independent extended warranties that are offered by used-car dealers are expensive and offer very limited coverage. Read the fine print and make sure you know what you're getting -- and paying -- before you sign.

If the car you're considering doesn't come with a warranty, you'll need to arrange for an inspection by an independent mechanic to make sure it isn't a "salvage special." Many used car dealers will resist this step; if they do, and if they aren't willing to stand behind the car with a warranty of some kind, just walk away. Unless you know how to evaluate a car for crash and flood damage yourself, it isn't worth taking the risk.

Wrapping it up
Congrats, Fool! With luck, at this point you've found one or two examples of the used car of your dreams. It's time to make the deal and drive it home. Follow the steps outlined in the Fool's car-buying primer, remembering to use sites like to get the true fair-market value of the used cars you're considering, and you'll cruise through the process like a champ. Enjoy your new ride!

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