Before You Buy a Used Car
Sep. 21, 2009
Whether you buy a used car from a dealer, a co-worker, or a neighbor, follow these tips to learn as much as you can about the car:
- Examine the car yourself using an inspection checklist. You can find a checklist in many of the magazine articles, books, and Internet sites that deal with buying a used car.
- Test drive the car under varied road conditions - on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
- Ask for the car's maintenance record. If the owner doesn't have copies, contact the dealership or repair shop where most of the work was done. They may share their files with you.
- Talk to the previous owner, especially if the present owner is unfamiliar with the car's history.
- Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.
- Research the frequency of repair and maintenance costs on the models in auto-related consumer magazines. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Vehicle Safety Hotline (1-888-327-4236) and website www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov gives information on recalls.
- Check a trusted database service that gathers information from state and local authorities, salvage yards, and insurance companies for an independent and efficient review of a vehicle's history. For example, the Department of Justice's National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) at www.nmvtis.gov is an online system that offers accurate information about a vehicle's title, odometer data, and certain damage history. Expect to pay up to $4 per report. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) at www.nicb.org maintains a free database that includes flood damage and other information so people can investigate a car's history by its vehicle identification number (VIN).