Where to Shop
You can buy a used car from:
- a franchised car dealership with a used-car lot
- an independent dealer who sells used cars only
- a private owner
It's not a good idea to buy a car from a close friend. No matter how well it runs when you buy it, a used car can suddenly--and unpredictably--need expensive repair work or replacement parts. Your friend's dream car can turn into a nightmare, causing bad feelings and creating a strain that could harm your friendship. It's not worth it, so don't risk it. Good cars are everywhere, but good friends are hard to find.
The classified section of your daily newspaper is a good place to start shopping, as it usually lists cars from all three sources. Here are some general guidelines about each:
Although buying a used vehicle from a new-car dealer can be more expensive, it offers several advantages:
- new-car dealers' used cars are generally in okay mechanical condition--dealers usually have a staff of qualified mechanics and try to ensure that their used vehicles are in keeping with their standards and reputation
- buying from a dealer includes the legal guarantee of title to the car--if a previous owner or creditor tries to repossess it, you can go back to the dealer for compensation
- licensing can be handled by the dealer
Used-car Dealers and Private Owners
The price of cars and the condition they're in will vary wildly in the vehicles for sale from used-car dealers or private owners. You may be getting a deal, but remember: "buyer beware".
- Don't buy anything without a written contract. If you're not sure what to include, contact the Automobile Protection Association. They offer a sample contract form for a nominal fee.
- Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure there are no liens against the car. Check with your local motor vehicle bureau for information on how to do this
You can't expect a used car to be as trouble-free or need as few repairs as a new one no matter where you buy it. By shopping carefully, though, you should be able to steer clear of major problems.