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Don’t Get Taken for a Ride When Shopping for Previously Used Cars

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The previously used cars industry is often a “buyer beware” market, but it doesn’t have to be. Fear of purchasing “lemons” or being duped into overpaying by over-eager salesmen have some drivers running for the comparative safety of the new car lot. While new cars are nice, their rapid depreciation – – just driving that sweet new ride off the lot will cost you 20% of its value with another 10% depreciation hitting after the first year of ownership – – and high purchase price make them a far less economical investment than previously used cars.

A used car dealership will often have pre-owned cars and trucks for half the price of the average new car. In fact, for 50% of the sticker price on a new vehicle, you could purchase a 3- or 4-year old pre-owned vehicle that’s larger and comes with more features than a new one. Of course, to get the best deal on previously used cars and trucks, you have to be a savvy purchaser. Follow these three straight-forward tips to ensure you drive off the lot the proud owner of a reliable used car or truck.

  1. Do Your Homework Before Class

    Remember back in the day when teachers assigned Summer Reading Lists for you to complete before the first day of school? Think of used car shopping as a lot like that. Before you even step food on a previously used cars dealership, it’s imperative that you do some research.

    Start by researching the reliability of various makes and models of vehicles. Consumers’ Reports publishes reliability information for annual subscribers. Edmunds also has forums where you can read about owners’ personal experiences with reliability.

    Once you’ve narrowed down the make and model of the vehicles you’re interested in, pop onto the website for a few Kent used car dealerships to browse their inventory. One of the worst mistakes used car shoppers make is showing up to a dealership just to see what they have to offer. Approach shopping for previously used cars like a playing a sports game: You want to come in with a clear objective in mind and enough knowledge to ensure you won’t be taken for a ride.
  2. Bumper Stickers Aren’t the Only Stickers Worth Looking At

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, used car dealers are required to post a Buyer’s Guide in the window of all previously used cars for sale. These guides will include information such as if the vehicle includes a warranty or is being sold “as is,” and if the dealer is obligated to pay any of the repair costs.

    This Buyer’s Guide is the final verdict on the terms of your vehicle purchase. If your sales contract contradicts something written in the Buyer’s Guide, the Guide rules. This means that if you and the salesman negotiate any changes in the contract, you must ensure the Buyer’s Guide is updated as well. Otherwise, you could end up with a dealer who is able to renege on an agreement to pay a portion of repair costs later on because the Guide doesn’t say he had to.
  3. Take it For a Quiet Test Drive

    The test drive is one of the most important steps when buying previously used cars. Make sure your route takes you over both local roads and highways. Local roads give a better opportunity to feel how the car handles around turns and how responsive the brakes are in stop-and-go traffic. On highways, you can determine how the engine runs.

    Resist the urge to play the radio while you drive and if possible, keep the windows down – – at least on the surface roads. You want to keep your eyes and ears open while test driving to determine if there are any unusual sounds or engine quirks.

Shopping for reliable used cars and trucks doesn’t have to be a nightmare. In fact, it could be just the opposite. When you save 50% on a nice pre-owned vehicle, you’ll realize how great previously used cars can be. There’s a reason 9.81 million used vehicles were sold in the first quarter of 2015 alone; previously used cars are the new new cars of the auto industry.