Buying Used Cars
Before you start shopping for a car,
you'll need to do some homework. Spending time now may
save you serious money later. Think about your driving
habits, your needs, and your budget. You can learn about
car models, options, and prices by reading newspaper
ads, both display and classified. There is a wealth
of information about used cars on the Internet: enter
"used cars" or "second hand cars" as the key words and you'll find
additional information on how to buy a used car, detailed
instructions for conducting a pre-purchase inspection,
and ads for cars available for sale, among other information.
Libraries and book stores also have publications that
compare car models, options, and costs, and offer information
about frequency-of-repair records, safety tests, and
mileage. Many of these publications have details on
the do's and don'ts of buying a used car.
Whether you buy a used car from a
dealer, a co-worker, or a neighbor, follow these tips
to learn as much as you can about the car:
- Examine the car yourself using an inspection checklist.
You can find a checklist in many of the magazine articles,
books and Internet sites that deal with buying a used
- Test drive the car under varied road conditions
- on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
- Ask for the car's maintenance record. If the owner
doesn't have copies, contact the dealership or repair
shop where most of the work was done. They may share
their files with you.
- Talk to the previous owner, especially if the present
owner is unfamiliar with the car's history.
- Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.
Buying From a Dealer
The days of dodgy motors sold by Arthur Daley-types in sheepskin coats are thankfully numbered. Today's car dealers are mostly a reputable bunch, bound by numerous laws and regulations that should ensure their cars are 'honest'.
Buying from a dealer means you are protected by the Sale of Goods Act. Put simply, this states that goods must meet an acceptable standard.
Reputable dealers should be members of a trade association, and be bound by its code of conduct. In the UK, look out for Retail Motor Industry Federation signs.
Franchised outlets will usually have the pick of the best cars, and offer the most comprehensive warranties. But using any dealer is convenient, as you can browse at your leisure - and if nothing's suitable, going back in a week usually reveals new stock. There's also the opportunity to sort out part exchange, finance, insurance and servicing arrangements all 'under one roof'. Convenience indeed.
If paying for the services provided by a dealer doesn't really appeal, there's always the private route. The man on the street has no overheads, no legal obligation to prepare and valet the car, and rarely offers a warranty. As such, costs will be correspondingly lower.
There can be certain risks involved as unscrupulous sellers may try to use private sales to off-load sub-standard or stolen cars. But don't let this put you off. If you're sensible, buying privately can have you motoring for far less than if you'd chosen to buy from a dealer.
But you need to be aware of the following:
- You have less legal come-back than you do through a dealer. Cars advertised for private sale must be "as described" but that's about as far as the legal obligations go.
- The checks that a dealer is compelled to make by law aren't a benefit in a private sale. This can be expensive if you choose to go the full professional inspection route.
- You won't get a warranty.
- Part-exchanges are rarely considered, meaning you'll have to sell your old car yourself, or dispose of it at trade price to a dealer.
As long as you make the right checks, buying a car privately can be more satisfying and financially rewarding than the dealer route - it just takes a little more work.
Diesel or Petrol?
It used to be a clear-cut decision; diesel for economy, petrol if you wanted to enjoy driving. Nowadays however, things are very different, and thanks to huge advances in diesel technology, there is a viable alternative to the petrol machinery that has dominated for so long. It's all down to what strengths you are after in a car.
What's so great about diesel cars?
- They're far more economical than petrol engines.
- They're cleaner, with lower emissions, especially CO2, which determines how much road tax you pay.
- They have better 'pull' in the gears, reducing the need for gear changing.
Diesel technology has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years. Nowadays, turbo-diesels are common-place, with only small or cheaper old used cars doing without one. It's well worth spending the extra to get a turbo-diesel, as both performance and economy will be better than non-turbo models, and they'll be nicer overall to drive, too.
Modern direct-injection and common-rail systems are also worth looking out for - they improve performance and economy even further, and are often quieter, smoother and less 'smoky' than older, less advanced systems.
We're not saying petrol has had its day. Certainly, superior 0-60mph times mean sporty drivers need not consider anything else, while those after a luxury car may well be disappointed by the extra vibrations and noise under acceleration offered by diesels.
What's so great about petrol cars?
- Petrol engines are quieter, more responsive and faster revving than diesel engines.
- They're generally cheaper to service.
- They're catching up with diesels in the economy stakes
Diesel technology may be making the headlines, but petrol engine technology advancement has been just as impressive. Outputs, both torque and bhp, have been improving dramatically with subsequent new models - and not to the detriment of fuel consumption.
Emissions too, have dropped significantly and petrol engines don't need the additional soot filters that are fitted to diesel powered cars.
If You Have Problems
If you have a problem that you think
is covered by a warranty or service contract, follow
the instructions to get service. If a dispute arises,
there are several steps you can take:
- Try to work it out with the dealer. Talk with the
salesperson or, if necessary, the owner of the dealership.
Many problems can be resolved at this level. However,
if you believe you're entitled to service, but the
dealer disagrees, you can take other steps.
- If your warranty is backed by a car manufacturer,
contact the local representative of the manufacturer.
The local or zone representative is authorized to
adjust and decide about warranty service and repairs
to satisfy customers. Some manufacturers also are
willing to repair certain problems in specific models
for free, even if the manufacturer's warranty does
not cover the problem. Ask the manufacturer's zone
representative or the service department of a franchised
dealership that sells your car model whether there
is such a policy.
- Contact your local Better Business Bureau, state
Attorney General, or the Department of Motor Vehicles.
You also might consider using a dispute resolution
organization to arbitrate your disagreement if you
and the dealer are willing. Under the terms of many
warranties, this may be a required first step before
you can sue the dealer or manufacturer. Check your
warranty to see if this is the case. If you bought
your car from a franchised dealer, you may be able
to seek mediation through the Automotive Consumer
Action Program (AUTOCAP), a dispute resolution program
coordinated nationally by the National Automobile
Dealers Association and sponsored through state and
local dealer associations in many cities. Check with
the dealer association in your area to see if they
operate a mediation program.
- If none of these steps is successful, small claims
court is an option. Here, you can resolve disputes
involving small amounts of money, often without an
attorney. The clerk of your local small claims court
can tell you how to file a suit and what the dollar
limit is in your state.
- The Magnuson-Moss Warranty
Act also may be helpful. Under this federal law, you
can sue based on breach of express warranties, implied
warranties, or a service contract. If successful,
consumers can recover reasonable attorneys' fees and
other court costs. A lawyer can advise you if this