Used Car Buying General Information

How to Evaluate a Used Car Listing


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As the economy has tightened, one, who may have wanted to purchase a new car, has been forced to turn to used cars and to use either online or print used car listings. If you are in this situation now, use the steps below to evaluate a used car listing.

1. Online or Print, Making your Initial Choice

Should one use an online or print used car listing to make an initial vehicle choice? Where a person has limited access to the Internet, the choice is print. If Internet access is available, then it is the ad of choice.

2. Finding the Right Vehicle

If you decided to scan the used car classifieds, here is a good suggestion. Many times dealers will purchase small classified ads to supplement their web and large ad buys. If you are thinking of a used car, try to find a classified ad that has been placed by a dealer, as you know there is a business standing behind it. If you use the Internet, then use one of car-only search engines such as CarsDirect that will lead you to the specific vehicle or vehicles you are looking for in your area.

3. Interpreting the Used Car Listing

Like the cryptographers who helped win World War II, one has to figure out ad terminology. For example, a used car listing may say “great mileage” or “gas saver”. This means the vehicle gets reasonably good mileage. It’s placed there to grab and lead you to the vehicle. The ad should also acknowledge the true mileage on the odometer, as you will have to sign a mileage statement when you finalize the sale, and the mileage will be entered on the purchase and sales agreement and title. If there is no mention of mileage in the ad, take a pass. The same is true of condition. An Internet ad will have photos for you to judge while you have to depend on the owner’s truthfulness in a print ad. If a car is in “good condition”, you can be sure that it will have two headlights, fenders, an engine, seats, and a body that is in good condition with normal wear and tear. Again, if the ad fails to mention condition, then, take a pass.

4. Pricing: Does the Ad Mention an “Asking Price”?

If you have chosen an Internet-based ad, then the “asking price” will likely be the dealership’s “Internet special price”. Generally, this price will be at least $1,000 under the vehicle’s lot price. Is it a great deal? The only great deal you’ll get is the one when you close and sign on the bottom line.

5. Other Sources of Cars and Prices

Dealerships are just one source of vehicles. One can also find a used car listing by owners in either print or on Internet sites. Indeed, many times you will find the best deals happen when you work with a private party. They'll be motivated to sell you their vehicle because they need the money as a down payment on another vehicle, or for some other important issue.

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