Used Cars Tips

Read these 11 Used Cars Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Car Buying tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Is blue smoke a bad sign?

When to Walk Away

Blue smoke streaming out your tailpipe is not a good thing—it means your engine is burning excess oil (which usually results from worn valve guides or piston rings). As if that's not bad enough, burning excess oil can lead to problems in other parts of your engine.

While an engine that burns excess oil usually needs costly repairs, ignoring the problem will only prove more costly later on. In other words, get it checked out sooner rather than later.

*If you are buying a used car and you see blue smoke coming from the tailpipe, consider it a “smoke signal” that you should walk away.

   
Are there specific used cars I should avoid?

Used Cars to Avoid

If you have ever wondered what used cars you should avoid buying, then you need to pick up a copy of Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide. In it you will find not only a list of best buys, but also a list of used cars to avoid. Cars with below-average reliability for specific model years make the list.

The book also includes a list of what Consumer Reports calls "repeat offenders." Repeat offenders are cars that have proven to be much worse in overall reliability year after year. In other words, they should be wearing a sign that says, "Lemon." Save yourself some grief and check the list at your local library or at a bookstore before you shop.

   
Where can I find reliable, inexpensive information on buying the best car?

Free Advice on Buying the Best Used Car

The Federal Citizen Information Center is a treasure trove of helpful, free resources for consumers. For example, you can download a free, 10-page PDF called "Finding the Best Used Car."

Published by the National Highway Transporations Safety Authority, the guide covers what to look for on the test drive, warning signs of hidden damage, and how to verify the car's history. You can also order a hard copy of the report for $1.00.

   
What are the best used cars for teens?

Best Used Cars for Teens

If you have a teen in the house, chances are you are or could soon be in the market for some reliable wheels. Buying a sound used car can be an economical way to get your teen their first car. According to Consumer Reports, some of the best cars for teenage drivers include cars such as:

• Honda Civic EX
• Subaru Impreza
• Toyota Corolla

To read the complete list, pick up a copy of Consumer Reports annual used car buying guide.

   
When is the best time to buy a used car?

Best Time to Buy Used Cars

There are traditional times of the year when car dealers hold huge inventory reduction sales. President's Day and just before the new model year launches are two such times. After these sales, dealerships are inundated with used cars they have taken in trade.

Frequently, an inventory reduction used car sale will follow on the heels of the new car sale so the dealer can keep the inventory on the lot moving. If you're in the market for a reliable used car, this is the time to strike for the best deal.

   
How do I set a price for my used car?

Selling Your Car Yourself

If you plan to place a used car for sale rather than trade it in to a dealer but you don't know what to ask for the car, try visiting the Kelley Blue Book or National Automobile Dealer's Association (NADA) websites.

These reputable sources provide interactive tools on their sites that can be used to price both used and new cars. The tool will guide you through a series of questions about the condition of the vehicle, mileage, and optional equipment before finally providing the market value.

*Most libraries carry current editions of the Kelley Blue Book and the NADA guides.

   
Why should I buy a used car instead of a new one?

Benefits of Buying Used

Buying a used car can be a smart move from a financial perspective. New cars depreciate precipitously the second you drive them off the lot. Used cars, on the other hand, do not. However, buying a used car can be a risky proposition if you don't know what to look for.

A good resource for information on used car reliability is Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is a division of Consumers Union of U.S., Inc., a nonprofit, independent organization that has for nearly 60 years been an unbiased source of consumer information and advice on products, services, health, and personal finance. The organization publishes the Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide.

You can find the same information that is published in the guide on the Consumer Reports Web site. Some information is free, but you have to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee to access the meatiest reviews.

   
Are there any good used cars available?

Availability of Used Cars

The popularity of leasing has put a whole new spin on used car sales. Cars coming off lease and being returned to dealers are generally in excellent condition. Many off lease used cars qualify for dealer certification programs and still carry the balance of the manufacturer's warranty.

If you have considered buying a used car but are afraid you may be buying another owner's problems, buying a previously leased car that has been certified by the dealer is a safe bet to ensure peace of mind that the car is reliable.

   
Where can I find information on car owner satisfaction?

Car Owner Satisfaction Ratings

When considering a used car for purchase, one indicator worth paying attention to is car owner satisfaction. Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers every year asking

"Considering all the factors (price, performance, reliability, comfort, enjoyment, etc.) would you get this car if you had it to do all over again?"

Toyota or its Lexus brand took seven of the top 12 spots on the most satisfying models list for model year 2002. The only domestic car to make the list for model year 2002 was the Chevrolet Corvette. Toyota also took top honors in the five-year-old category accounting for seven out of the top 11 spots for most satisfying cars for the 2000 model year.

Owner satisfaction isn't necessarily correlated to car reliability. Satisfaction, after all, is an elusive concept that has as much to do with emotion as logic!

   
What types of safety equipment should I look for?

Safety Equipment

When shopping the used car sales, your budget may lead you consider later models. In recent years, there have been big improvements to safety equipment thanks to advances in technology (as well as the phase in of new manufacturer requirements that have boosted overall safety standards).

Older car models may not have things such as airbags, which have proven to decrease mortality rates in vehicles equipped with them. Try to find a car that at least has some basic safety features and equipment (including antilock brakes (ABS), front air bags, and, if you will be using a child safety seat, child-seat attachments known as LATCH).

   
How does depreciation affect my car purchase?

Impact of Depreciation

It's no coincidence that when you are shopping the used car market, the most popular used cars are those that hold their value well (a car is said to hold its trade in value when it does not depreciate as significantly as compared to other new car models bringing a higher price in the used car market).

The Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Camry cars said to hold value exceptionally well because these cars are known to be ultra-reliable and easy and affordable to maintain. They are very sought after by used car buyers.

   
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Jerry Mayo