(ARA) - Industry statistics show that almost three times
as many people buy used cars as buy new.
To help consumers make informed decisions in the process,
the experts at CarMax, America's leading used car retailer,
have put together a basic list of the things to check when
buying a used car.
1. Check the vehicle's safety features.
Consider a vehicle with air bags and anti-lock brakes. Not
only will they make a car safer, but insurance companies sometimes
give discounts on their rates for cars with these features.
2. Inspect the mileage.
Mileage is a good indicator of the vehicle's age, and the
average consumer will drive from 12,000 miles to 15,000 miles
each year. A late model used car may be more cost-effective
and come with many features you may not be able to afford
in a new car.
3. Check the mechanical condition of the vehicle.
If you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself, have a mechanic
you trust check it for you. Fluids, lights, belts, power steering,
the charging system, the air conditioner, the engine cooling
system, the brakes and the suspension should all be carefully
inspected for any defects and wear. And don't forget to test
drive the car.
4. Examine the tires.
Uneven tread wear can be a sign that the car may need an alignment,
or that it has damage to its suspension. Make sure the spare
tire is in working condition with no damage or excessive wear.
5. Watch for frame damage.
Seriously damaged cars may be repaired, re-titled and sold
in some cases, masking a vehicle that may not be structurally
sound. When looking at a used car, check for:
-- rust around the fenders and bumpers, around lights, under
doors and in wheel wells
-- cracks, dents and mismatched body panels
Cars that have been previously damaged may be more likely
to have mechanical problems, and do not withstand accidents
as well as cars that are structurally sound.
6. Check for cosmetic problems.
Common signs of wear and tear in used cars include cigarette
burns, dirty upholstery, smoke stains, and paint scratches
7. Carefully read and understand the terms of any warranty
offered on the car.
Don't hesitate to ask questions of your salesperson, and be
wary of hidden conditions and exclusions that may be in the
fine print. A reputable dealer will answer your questions
completely and explain the details of the warranty.
8. Check the price.
The actual price of the car is only one of many factors that
will determine your total price. Don't forget to compare financing
rates, warranty costs, trade-in values and processing fees.
The different features on the vehicle can also make a price
difference. For example, a car with an automatic transmission
is usually going to be slightly higher in price than the same
car with a manual transmission. Research the vehicle you are
considering, and find out what comparable prices are for similar
vehicles in your area.
9. Look for a reputable dealership.
Ask around, and talk to previous customers of the dealer to
find out what their experiences were like. A good dealer is
more likely to be fair and up-front in price, value and condition
of its vehicles, and won't pressure you to buy a vehicle you
don't want. Hassles should never be part of buying a used
car. Be prepared, and know what you're looking for.
EDITOR'S NOTE: CarMax, the Auto Superstore, first opened
its doors in 1993 in Richmond, Va. Based on input from thousands
of consumers, it was designed to provide a convenient, hassle-free
way to buy high quality used cars at low, no-haggle prices.
Today, CarMax has locations in more than 20 major cities across
the country, with both used-car superstores and new-car franchises
throughout the United States. CarMax is also online at carmax.com.