Life Lessons & How Tos

How to Buy a Used Car: Advice for Seniors

Buy A Used Car

To obtain a general idea of vehicle prices, consult the current monthly edition of the N.A.D.A. Official Used Car Guide at a public library, bank, or automobile dealership.

Vehicle price information can also be obtained by consulting the vehicle classified sections of major newspapers at a public library. This is a convenient way to get a read on future prices because vehicle price trends usually begin in major cities and then progress to other areas of the country. The bottom line on becoming informed about vehicles and prices is to obtain a used vehicle that is in excellent condition, with a low repair history, and at substantial savings.

Identifying Used Vehicle Sources There are a number of possible used vehicle sources from which to choose. Rather than becoming overwhelmed with all the possible sources, keep in mind that each source is actually competing with the others. Therefore, when shopping for a vehicle, be certain to let each source know that you are also considering the other sources.

Some of the sources to consider when buying a used vehicle include:

  • The Internet (Investigate if the source is reputable)
  • Used automobile lots (buyer beware)
  • Rental car companies
  • Company vehicles
  • New automobile dealerships (investigate if the dealer is reputable)
  • Private owners

Contacting a used vehicle source by telephone and obtaining specific information can help to reduce unnecessary legwork. The telephone inquiry will enable you to determine if a vehicle is worth your time to investigate.

Some questions to ask a private owner or other used vehicle source about a vehicle include:

  • How many miles has the vehicle been driven (the average is about 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year)?
  • Is the transmission automatic, semi-automatic, or manual? If the transmission is not what you want, there is no need to ask further questions.
  • What is the condition of the vehicle’s body? Is there any rust?
  • Has the vehicle been repainted and if so, why? Avoid repainted vehicles. It is better to see the original paint even if a few small stone chips need to be touched up.
  • Has the vehicle been involved in any accidents? Avoid vehicles that have been involved in any accidents.
  • When are the next state inspection and emissions standard test due? The vehicle should have a minimum of at least six months remaining until the next required state inspection and emissions test.
  • How often were the engine oil and the oil filter changed, and who performed the service? An acceptable answer would be every 3,000 to 3,500 miles or about every three to four months.
  • Are you the original owner of the vehicle? Original owners tend to take better care of vehicles.
  • What is the reason that the vehicle is being sold? It is encouraging if the individual is the original owner and if he or she is planning to again buy the same make of vehicle.
  • Are parts and services readily available for the vehicle? Where can parts and services be obtained? Avoid buying a vehicle if parts and services are not readily available.
  • Has the vehicle had any recent repairs (new brakes, tires, exhaust, battery) or service and if so, what garage performed the repairs or service?
  • What price are you asking for the vehicle?

The interior and exterior inspections and the vehicle test-drive are used to verify the information obtained during the telephone inquiry.

Adapted from “Drive the Best…” © 2002 by Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch has over 300,000 miles on his 1986 Volkswagen Jetta – a used vehicle that he bought in 1991 for $2,600. For more information about the book, call:1 800 839-8640

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