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Car Buying Tips


Car Buying Tips

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • What will I be using the car for and how much car can I afford? Before you start looking at used cars, decide in what way the car will be used.
  • Will the car be driven long distances frequently?
  • Is economy or roominess a consideration?
  • Is the car my only means of transportation?
  • What features (cruise control, a/c, power windows, etc.) are important to me and what can I do without?

Look at your budget

Once you have a list of answers to these types of questions, then look at your budget to determine what you can afford for the car's payments, gas, insurance and general maintenance. All automobiles require upkeep, so factor in amount for repairs. A good rule of thumb: Multiply the number of miles you expect to drive a month by 38 cents; the amount of money you should set aside a month to cover operating costs and maintenance on a car in addition to your car payment and insurance.

Choose the Right Kind of Dealer

Ask for recommendations from your relatives and friends if they've been satisfied with their used car purchase. Contact the Better Business Bureau or the Division of Motor Vehicles for a dealer's past history. You may want to look in the newspaper's classified ads and trade magazines to compare prices and models advertised by different dealerships. To find a reputable dealer, ask if he or she is a member of the Florida Independent Automobile Dealers Association (FIADA) a coalition of hundreds of dealers across the state.

Understand the Laws

Under the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Used Car Rule, all dealers are required to conspicuously display a "Buyers Guide" in all cars offered for sale. The Buyers Guide tells you if the vehicle has a warranty or no warranty at all. The dealer has no further responsibility for a car sold "as is," once the sale is complete and you drive off the lot. Verbal promises and oral agreements between you and the sales representative are virtually impossible to enforce and may not be legally binding. You should have all agreements in writing and signed by everyone involved. Don't allow yourself to be rushed.

Check Out the Car Thoroughly

Take your time when looking at cars and try not to hurry through the process. Try to shop for a car under conditions which allow you to properly inspect the vehicles. Having a friend or family member with you can help you make a better appraisal of the automobile. Don't expect perfection in a pre-owned vehicle; cars are machines, and machine parts wear out. What works today unfortunately may not work tomorrow, and there's often no way a dealer can forecast problems.

Open Your Eyes and Take a Good Look

You need to be serious when inspecting the car for problems or damages, both inside and outside the vehicle. You may want to take the automobile to a repair shop or mechanic to gain a third-party perspective. You may have to pay for this service, but the money you invest can help you make an informed decision. If the selling dealer discourages you to have the vehicle inspected, this may be a clue to shop somewhere else. Look for the obvious; water and oil leaks, worn belts, and hoses; and smoke from the exhaust. And don't forget to "kick" the tires. These are items which affect reliability and repair costs.

Go For a Drive

It is essential to take the car for a road test before you make a purchase. The dealer will probably ride with you, but be sure you have the chance to drive the car yourself. Trust your instincts: If you drive the car and it just doesn't feel quite right to you, make sure you and the dealer agree on what is to be done and put it in writing.

Use Your Head When Signing the Deal

Keep in mind what you can spend for a car payment and don't stretch your dollars beyond your budget. When making your purchase; take time to read and understand all of the agreements and papers in front of you. If there are any blank spaces on contracts, fill them in. If you are required to make a deposit, ask if it's refundable and under what circumstances and put that in writing also.

Beware of buying cars off the side of the road or from shopping center parking lots. You may never know who are you dealing with. The person selling you the carmay be an unlicensed car dealer or someone who has actually stolen the vehicle!

Shopping smart for a pre-owned vehicle isn't rocket science; it just takes a little study time. Hopefully the next time you shop for a used car, you'll make a passing grade.