Some Tricks to Purchasing a Used Car

Did you know that once you drive off a brand new car off of the dealer lot, the car loses value? You do! Crazy. Huh?

Purchasing a used car can be very financially wise. In addition, you can research the reliability of the make/model you are interested in.

But, if not carefully examined, a used cars can equally be a huge financial commitment, especially if an issue isn’t noticed at time of purchase that requires a repair costing greater than the car's value.

So, in an effort to help with this process, I’ll share a list of steps that I usually follow and a checklist that I use to verify the condition of a used car. The goal of all of this upfront work is to tremendously decrease the probability of purchasing a lemon.

I suggest the following process. I understand it is work, actually a fair amount, but if you don't do the work, you are gambling at success. So, it up to you; do you want to the work ahead of time, which is cheap, or do the work after the purchase, which is expensive? You make the call. If you would like to prepare for your purchase, please use the following list to assist with the process of purchasing a used car:

The following list of resources is what I have used in the past to accomplish my above recommendations:

Resource Category Description
Auto Trader

Car Max

Kelly Blue Book

Price/ Mileage/ Availability These resources are used to determine what the year/make/model is going for in your area. In addition, note the mileage these cars usually have. I also research on average how many miles this make/model could have? How you ask? Move your search year to the oldest year that your make/model is still being sold and note the mileage these cars have. This probably indicates a high mileage peak or right before the high mileage peak.
Test Drive Check List Reliablity This resource highlights several areas to look at during your visual inspection and test drive of the vehicle you might purchase. You need to quickly determine if there are any showstoppers and identify items you can use to lower the price.
Car Complaints Reliablity This resource allows you to determine if the year/make/model you're looking at is reliable. Be sure to look if complaints are relevant to you. For example, if the year/make/model vehicle being research is having major issues with automatic transmission but you looking to purchase a manual transmission, these set of complaints aren't relevant to you.

You can also find Recalls and TSBs, for free, on this site.
Mitchell1 DIY

Reliability These purchased resources are used to research known Technical Service Bulletins(TSBs) and Recalls for the year/make/model you are interested in purchasing. I suggest using the information to ensure all recalls have been applied and to know what areas, via the TSBs, to focus your vehicle inspection on.

These resources are for the intermediate and higher DIYer since technical information and technical resolutions about known issues are discussed.
Yelp Car Dealer This resource allows you to determine the dealer's professional reputation.

Best of luck with your purchase. From my experience, it takes me of upwards of 6 months to iron out all issues with a used car purchase.