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Buying an Old Car (short version)


First things first - make sure you have a pretty good idea on the following:

1. Purchase budget
2. Expectations: how long car to be kept, the purpose for the car, total cost to own or car monthly expenses

Once those things are out of the way car search is in order.
Nowdays used cars could be found online, by a word of mouth, in local paper etc.
When prospective car(s) is(are) found it's time to gain some advantage and specifically get the following (and not necessarily in that particular order):

DO YOUR HOMEWORK and be prepared for any marketing pitfalls prepared by the seller!
If your're NOT a car mechanic - HIRE A REAL CAR MECHANIC you know.
If you're A car mechanic - ASK CAR MECHANIC from work to go see a car with you! Extra pair of eyes never hurt!
Do a research and know everything there is to know about a car you want to buy!

- Small example -
seller may say that car has a mechanical transmission and that it is more fuel-efficient than automatic but he/she may fail to mention a $700 price tag on upcoming clutch replacement in 20,000 miles ($700 at $4 per gallon is 175 gallons with 20MPG gives 3,500 miles driving distance, not to mention that some of the automatic transmissions are only 2-3% less efficient and slipping clutch is less efficient that an automatic transmission).
On 2% efficiency difference at 20MPG for manual transmission [getting .4 miles less on a gallon or 19.6MPG for automatic 8 cents extra for every gallon] to get back $700 you'd need to cover 175,000 miles to make new clutch worth-while, i.e. for every 20 miles you get 8 cents back on a clutch. With better gas mileage and cheaper gas you'd need to cover even more miles to pay back for a clutch. Good clutch may last you a 100,000 miles. Do your math...

- Engine needs a new head gasket


See car in-person

When appointment to see a car is set - be punctual! Being late is always bad.
Buying a used car is always a game.

- Stick to simple things and build a complete picture in your mind of a car you want to buy.

- Do not be impatient. Good things come to those who is able to wait!

- Inspect car documentation and all the records (if present) first and only then start mechanical inspection.

- Demand cold motor start before coming to see a car. Cold motor could tell more about its condition than an engine that was already warmed-up. (long time to get worm on any car other than American means bad thermostat and as a result - low fuel efficiency).

- Check crank case pressure by removing an oil cap while engine running. Too much pressure means engine is on its way...

- Ask if seller knows Gas Mileage car gets. If seller is the owner and he/she does not know the answer - it could mean one of two things: he/she is either filthy rich or just plain did not care for a car. Either way - expect/demand a price discount based on that information alone.

- Run OBD-II tests if car is equipped with it. Many things could be uncovered by examining erased codes i.e. airbags deployment etc.

- Always perform 10-15 minutes drive test on local streets and on a highway if car is drivable. Any extra noise in a car during drive test is a dead giveaway of a failed unit which may mean lowered price and/or more fixing for you down the road. If car is not drivable - many times than not it means you're about to inherit more headaches than you've bargained for.

- If cosmetics are important - always make sure your see the car on a broad daylight and it is washed but not wet! Take your time examining all the panels, shades in color and use paint depth meter if necessary!

- Get a CarFax! Please NOTE: CarFax is NOT 100% Accurate! Do not rely on CarFax solely!

Based on your observations calculate approximate investment in repairs (if any).
Calculate purchase price by adding repairs to asking price and do not forget taxes and registration fees.

Always negotiate the price even if it was not negotiable! Never fall-in-love with the car on a first date! - or at least try hard not to show it...

Add 5-10% (for newer cars) or 10-20% (for older cars) to the purchase price for unexpected repairs/expenses besides repairs already factored-in.

Calculate final price to have this car in your garage and compare it to the initial purchase budget.



Best result is a calculated result! - Especally the one calculated with no errors.

Things to consider while making a decision to buy or not to buy a used car:

1. NEVER LISTEN to a SALES PERSON! PERIOD! He/she is here to sell and earn money, not to drive your future car.
2. Do your OWN MATH! (yes, on a separate piece of paper if you have too)
3. DEMAND all PAPERWORK to be PRESNT at the time of the TRANSACTION! (or you may end-up on a wild goose-chase for your title)
4. Factor-in as much as you learned about the car's downside.
5. Know your options on other available cars for sale and if you feel uncomfortable just say NO to the whole deal.
6. If deal is "Too Good to be True" it is usually means that it is NOT a Great deal for you! There are NO Miracles in this World!
7. If something smells "Fishy" now - it will smell bad later. Do not wait for it to turn on you. It does not matter if it is a mechanical or a financial issue. All bad things will cost you money sooner or later!
8. Get a second opinion on a deal from your friend or a co-worker. Try not to ask your family member just now. Sleep on a deal for a night or two.

We hope our small article helped at least a little! By no means it could be used as a guideline! More like thinking out-loud!
Do not forget to post a comment if you feel the need to share your thoughts.

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Total messages: 1

Nice Information on buying a car
posted by: Taylor on Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 6:35 PM
Hi, I like this very much. Keep up the great things to come. I feel like I could lower the prices that dealers are suggesting already.

Thank You so much,