There are a few things in America that are very painful. Paying for medical emergencies, renting an apartment, breaking your leg and on the same lines - buying a car. A naive first timer can easily get duped into thinking they just bought the best deal ever and walk out with that all knowing smirk on their face, but little do they know.
As a first timer myself, my saving grace is a few friends who've lived here since a long time and who have taken it upon themselves to make sure no one makes an ass out of me. Here is a quick guide on how to approach buying a pre owned car, for any budget.
- NEVER buy a salvage/rebuilt title. This is often the most important question you must ask the party you're buying the car from, and often the detail missing in advertisements, for obvious reasons. (In the United States, a salvage title is a form of vehicle title branding, which notes that the vehicle has been severely damaged and/or deemed a total loss by an insurance company that paid a claim on it) These are the cheapest kinds of cars, but the most dangerous to buy. At this point (2011) there are a lot from the Katrina wreckage.
- ALWAYS check the Kelly Blue Book price: So when someone quotes a figure, you should know whether its a fair price. The KBB takes into account model, make, miles and condition and give you three prices - good condition, excellent and fair condition. So you should know that while buying a car, depending on the variables mentioned above, you know what to expect. It also gives you bargaining power, and the seller knows your not the average joe but a seasoned buyer who knows whats what.
- Craigslist is where to start: and its overwhelming, and confusing and has a crapload of junk, but there are those occasional deals. It is imperative to scour and stalk and make calls and visits and narrow down the cars you want to bargain for. Private party cars tend to be cheaper but dealer cars are shinier - choose your poison.
- If you think you find a great car and a good price and you think you're done, your NOT. the last thing to do is to get a lemonbuster to check out the car. Don't know what a lemonbuster is? Not a good sign if youre looking out seriously. A lemon is a car which is neither good nor bad and can swing either way. A lemon buster will look under the hood and let you know about big ticket expenses that you may incur. Refer to autopi or other mechanics in your area.
A car passing ALL the filters above is finally waiting to be bought! I'm still looking for my baby.