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Tips For Buying a Used Car From a Dealer - Get a Carfax

Used Car Dealer (shifty)

For those looking to save money and get a good deal on a vehicle, buying used is the way to go. New cars carry a "new car premium" that is lost as soon as you sign the dotted line and drive it off the lot. This premium is often almost half of the vehicle's purchase price, especially if calculated after a year of ownership: that $30,000 purchase is now worth less than $20,000.

So used is the choice for those looking to save that premium. Whether the car you're considering is one year or ten years old, the same things apply when looking it over and talking to the dealership.

Find out if the car is certified and, if it is, by whom it is certified. Then find out what that certification actually means. Some used car dealers will be "manufacturer certified," which is usually the certification of choice. Others are certified by an insurance company, which may or may not be a good thing - check what the certification guarantees and warranties on the car, as often very little is really covered.

Next, if the car is certified, ask for a copy of the mechanic's certification inspection on the vehicle. This should have notes as to what was checked, replaced, or repaired on the car. This gives you an idea of not only what shape it was in when the dealer received it, but also how well it might have been taken care of before that.

Now ask about Carfax. Some dealerships include this with the vehicle and will supply a copy on demand. Get one for the car and be sure to check the VIN (vehicle identification number) against the Vehicle history report to be sure they match. A common scam amongst used car dealers is to offer the Carfax, but use one for every car of the same model they have, thus saving the fees for individual reports. This report tells you nothing about the car you're looking at and if you are given a bogus Carfax, report this to the Better Business Bureau and Carfax immediately.

Last but definitely not least is to ask about returns. Does the dealership allow returns if you aren't satisfied with the car? If so, what is their policy regarding them? A dealership that doesn't offer at least a 7-day, no questions asked return is not worth dealing with. Some may have return policies stretching out to 30 days where all you pay is for miles driven - a reasonable policy.

Finally, before you leave, get everything you've agreed to and they've told you is "policy" in writing. Keep the Carfax and other documentation as well. If you end up making a legal claim for any reason, all of this is important to have.

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