Car Shopping – and Shun – List
If you go new
car shopping, your main worry is price. You don’t
have to worry about the particular car. The red one sitting
next to the silver one that’s parked next to the yellow one
on the dealer’s lot . . . they’re all the same. It doesn’t
really matter which one you pick – other than colors and options.
And, of course,
With a used
car, it’s exactly the opposite.
A given used
car is an individual – distinct from the thousands
of others of the same make/model that rolled off the line that year.
It was driven differently – and maintained differently. It
may have been babied – or it could have been abused. No two
examples of a given make/model/year used car will ever
be the same as far as their mechanical and cosmetic condition, the
miles on the clock, the stains on the seats or the intervals at
which necessary service (such as oil and filter changes) was performed.
– rather than price – is what matters most
when used car shopping.
condition involves variables and subtleties that make haggling over
new car prices seem like a cakewalk. Most people know about dealer
invoice vs. manufacturer’s suggested retail price –
and how to research dealer incentives and all the rest of it. It’s
not rocket science; the info is available and it’s all pretty
straightforward – being just numbers.
But how do
you determine whether the used vehicle you’re looking at was
ill-treated by its previous owner? Whether high-quality service
parts were used – or the cheapest no-name crap on discount
at Wal-Mart? Dealers (and even private sellers) can cover up stuff
better than Lady Gaga’s make-up people. And once you’ve
signed the contract and handed over your dollars, any problems are
now your problems – because in most states, there
is no warranty implied unless it is specifically stated. Sales are
generally considered “as is” – unless there’s
something in writing asserting or promising otherwise. Telling the
small claims court that the seller told you there were
no problems with the car will usually cut no ice. And, to be fair
to the seller, he may not have known about the problem that cropped
up after the sale. It’s a used car. Wear and tear.
Bad luck. Stuff can – and does – go wrong. That’s
why the standard in court for pursuing a successful claim against
a seller is usually pretty high. In most cases, you’d have
to substantiate willful, knowing misrepresentation. Absent that,
it’s your car now – warts and all.
That’s a good state of mind to be in when shopping used cars.
I like to compare it with my personal policy when riding a motorcycle:
Assume every driver is deliberately trying to kill you. A little
precautionary paranoia in dicey situations can save you a lot of
trouble. All right. So, how about some practical used car buying
to stick with popular models
This may seem
counterintuitive, because popular often means pricey. However, popular
also tends to mean good. If lots of people are buying a
given make/model/year vehicle – and prices are strong –
it strongly suggests that make/model/year vehicle is a good vehicle.
Personal case-in-point: I own two of the last-generation (1998-2004)
Nissan Frontier pick-up truck, the generation before this model
got up-sized to mid-sized from compact-sized. I paid the same money
in 2011 for my 2004 that I paid back in ’04 for my ’98.
The value of these trucks has held strong – because they’re
known to be sturdy little trucks that are very hard to hurt, even
if you try to. Mid-late 1990s-era Toyota Corollas – and all
Mazda Miatas – are two more examples of known-good cars that
were made in the millions.
still important to vet the particular example you find – but
being able to fixate on a certain make/model/year helps a lot. And
if it’s popular, it’s likely you’ll have lots
of examples to choose from – another advantage of going for
a well-liked car. And parts – especially trim parts –
will likely be available for longer.
And for less.
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automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2013 Eric Peters
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