Good Money After Bad: Tips for buying a used car

Thinking about buying a used car? New or used-a vehicle is a big purchase. It’s a good idea to be armed with a little information before handing over your hard earned money. Private sales versus buying from a dealer are a completely different experience. Either way, the concept is the same: You need to make sure you won’t be throwing good money after bad.

Check Blue Book Value

Before you even consider responding to an ad for a car, get online and check out the Kelley Blue Book value. Their site is easy to navigate and you don’t need to know much about cars to get a ballpark idea of what you should pay. Obviously, there are lots of variables which may drive the price up or down beyond the book range. But if a seller is asking $30,000 for a car that has a Blue Book value of $5000.. Well, run the other way. Being an informed consumer gives you power and the know-how to not be taken advantage of.

Kick the tires

Probably one of the most overlooked parts of a car is the rubber. Tires can be a major or minor factor in your purchase depending on your own situation. If you’re looking to spend $20,000 on a car, then it may be less of an issue if you have to spend $1000 on tires. However, if it’s your first car, or you just don’t have the budget presently, money spent replacing bad tires is a much larger chunk out of say, a $3000 car. On that note, if you’re thinking that you can get away with a few thousand miles on those bad tires. Don’t. Tire failure is one of the leading causes of car accidents, and one that’s completely preventable. If you have enough choices available, don’t be afraid to walk away from a car with a bad set of tires if you can’t put new ones on right away.


Ask for a Carfax report. It’s cheap and will give you peace of mind should you be satisfied with the results. They’ll check for major accidents, mileage rollback, hail damage, airbag deployment, and a whole list of other things. If the owner isn’t willing to give you the report, ask if you can have the license plate or VIN number and run it yourself. If they refuse to give you that information, there’s a good chance they’re hiding something. As above, walk away. No deal is good enough to drive away with a car that’s unsafe for you and your family.

Check Consumer Reports

Consumer reports is an incredibly valuable resource. They perform detailed analyses of major car makes and models each year. It may require a subscription to view, but it will be money well spent if it helps you avoid a lemon.

Ask for Service Records

Some owners are meticulous about maintaining their cars. Usually these are the same people who insist on keeping records. This is who you want to buy a car from! It’s easy to say that you had regular oil changes, but it’s not that much harder to prove it. Don’t be afraid to ask for them. It’s a big purchase and no one else is going to look out for your interests besides you. Well, that’s not entirely true. We’d be happy to help you purchase a used car, but more on that later.

Test Drive

Always, always, always, ask for a test drive. For insurance reasons, they may only allow you to ride along while they drive but you NEED to see and feel how it goes down the road. Don’t write a check only to find out that you can’t shift past third gear when you try to drive it home.

Bring it to your friendly mechanic

Most mechanics will be happy to do an inspection on a car you’re considering. Be sure to call ahead and make an appointment if you need one. It may cost you an hour labor, but it too will be money well spent. Cars are complex machines, made up of complex systems, made up of complex parts, made up get the point. Bring it to an expert, get their opinion, ask if they’d let their son or daughter drive it.

Visit our website for more information about buying used at Duluth Dodge.

Categories: Pre-Owned Inventory
; ;