Purchasing A Car

Telephone Interview
Just ask a few questions. It can save you a lot of wasted time and money

Why are You Selling the Car?
You can learn a lot about the car and its owner with this question. If the owner says he has been transferred and has to start work out of state the following week, there´s a chance this is a legitimate distress sale. That´s an opportunity to get a bargain! On the other hand, beware of implausible answers. If the car is a Chevy Camaro and the seller says it belonged to his mother and he’s selling it for her because she’s out of town for the week, you might want to hang up and call Crime Stoppers. If you’re buying a car from someone, size them up. This may sound offensive, but if the seller doesn´t have receipts to prove the up-keep of the car, they look broke and tell you that they’ve been unemployed for a long period of time, be cautious of buying their car. If someone doesn´t have extra money, they aren´t going to get the oil changed on a regular basis. They may ignore that check engine light that was on since Bush was in office. We all have been in situations when we need to sell something (legal) to earn some extra cash. The problem comes when you buy someone´s problem.

What Condition is the Car in?
This is an obvious question. The way the owner answer this question can tell you a lot about how well the car has been maintained. As you listen, take notes of all the problems, so you can refer to them should you go ahead with a test drive. Your list will also be helpful when you take the car to a mechanic for a professional inspection.

What Recent Work has Been Done to the Car?
This question gives you a snapshot of the car´s maintenance history. If you´re looking at a car that´s only one or two years old, don´t be concerned if nothing has been done recently. It just hasn´t reached the point where things have started breaking. But if the owner draws a blank or takes too long to answer when the car is five or ten years old, you should pass on that car because you maybe buying somebody´s problems.

Do You have Receipts for Recent Service?
It takes 15 minutes to go through the receipts. Are there records of regular oil changes? Was service performed at the dealership? Has the owner claimed a lot of recent service, but has no receipts? Be suspicious.

Are You the Original Owner?
This question is a good opener when responding to a classified or web ad. If the owner isn´t the original owner ask, “How long have you owned the car?” This will show how well the owner knows the car. The biggest problem is weekend auto dealers posing as owners. They buy cheap and sell quick, passing along undisclosed problems to the new owner. A client of ours found a car at a dealer, and after researching found that this particular car already had four owners and the car was a 2003 model. With that vital information, it told the potential buyer that people that owned this car were not happy with it.

Has The Car Ever Been In Any Accidents?
This question is very useful. Most people don´t want to buy a car that´s been in an accident. Secondly, you can verify whatever information the owner tells you with Carfax.com. Lies by current owners about serious accidents can´t be tolerated. On the other hand, a mild fender bender does little to affect a car´s safety or reliability, if proper repairs were made. If you´re still interested, find out the severity of the accident.

Are You at all Flexible on the Price?
When people ask me this question on the phone, I always get a little annoyed. I think, "You haven´t even seen the car and you´re already negotiating the price?" On the other hand, it´s good to know going into the situation whether the owner has any room to lower the price. So I advise asking it, and I advise asking it in a respectful way, as it is worded above. No ghetto fabulous. You might talk yourself out of a great car.

How to Appraise a Used Car?
There are a variety of web tools and other resources to help you find out value of a car you´re interested in.
Pick up your local newspaper or for-sale magazine and find cars that interest you. This gives you a general idea of how much people are asking. Remember to focus on a single make and model at one time (e.g., ´99-´02 Ford Taurus).
Research the vehicle at Edmunds.com or KelleyBlueBook.com you get a specific value for the exact model and equipment level you want to buy.
There are dealerships that will give you value amount for your vehicle but before you go there you should know how much your car is worth. There are people out there who make their profit from not giving owners the right value for their car. Some years ago, a client was curious and went to one of these dealerships and they offered her $5 for her car! Yes, the car had multiple problems, but $5?
Remember private sellers and dealers usually ask more than they´re willing to accept.

Negotiating Tips:
During your first visit to a dealer lot, do not buy a car, no matter how tempting or despite the promises from the salesperson that the car will not be there tomorrow. Fast decisions lead to bad decisions.

You have a Right to Remain Silent on this Test Drive
How can you hear that roaring sound the car makes when the salesperson is talking your ear off? Tell them, “Sorry, we´ll talk in your office. I´m listening to the car.” During the test drive they want as much information out of you as possible. Anything you say will be used against you in the Finance Office. They want to know what monthly payment you can afford, and they want your trade-in. Give them one-word answers or tell them nothing. They see you as a “payment buyer.” They will try to get your payment down to where you want it by increasing your payment term. Your payment maybe $250 a month but you will pay on the car for 60-72 months. Tell them you don´t deal that way, you negotiate based on its price, not monthly payments. By 60-72 months, you´ve paid an extra $4,000 or more on the car. If you can´t pay for a car in 36-48 months, the car is too expensive for you.  Speaking of test drives, ask the salesperson if you can have a 24-hour test drive. You are about to be stuck with this car for the next four to five years. You will not know how the car really handles the road during a two to three mile test drive. Also check out the fleet of vehicles at a rental car company. Rent the car for a week. If you like the car, look for the same car at a dealer and you may have a winner.