Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tips for finding the right car

Now that I'm on my 4th car (2 new, 2 used), I have learned a lot as a consumer about both selling and buying used cars.  In this post I will be discussing tips about finding that next car.  This should help you avoid some of the difficulties I encountered.
  1. Always do your research.  Whether you're buying a new car or used, always make sure to do your research.  Understand exactly what options came with the car. There are many online resources for you to find what packages was standard and which of those options cost additional.  These online resources include and  This is especially important for used car purchases.  If possible, go to an used car dealership with a similar model vehicle so you can visually see all of the options.  Because used cars come with various packages, you want to understand what you are paying for.  For example, when I purchase my 911, I did not understand the options list fully, and I may have overpaid for a vehicle that I assumed had options where it did not.
  2. Wait for the car you want.  This is true for both new and used car purchases.  There are many cars out there, and you should not settle.  Make sure the car you have decided to purchase has all the options you are looking for.  If not, be willing to "wait it out" until the right one comes along.  Worst case scenario, you end up with a newer model car.  If you are willing to compromise, make sure these are items you will not regret later.  When I purchase my car, I thought I could put up with halogen headlights and black wheels, even though I really wanted xenon headlights and stock turbo wheels.  Ultimately this resulted in me spending several thousand more in addition to the purchase price of my car later on to make those adjustments.  These adjustments do not add any value when you finally sell the car
  3. Learn the market value of the car.  Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds are great resources to find the benchmark price for the vehicle, but the price of the vehicle is dependent as much on the car itself as it does supply and demand. is also a great resource to find market value, but take it with a grain of salt.  Since it is a free service, some individuals on Craigslist tend to overprice their vehicles.  If the economy is poor and there is very little demand for a certain vehicle, but a lot of supply, the price will go down, and vice-versa.  Sports cars and luxury items are affected by economic and seasonal trends even more than bread and butter items.  For example, in this economy, vehicles are selling private party for at or near trade in value (and sometimes even below).  Sports cars also sell cheaper in the winter, as there are more supply (many areas of the country are covered in snow) than demand (only a few areas can you drive your car year round).
  4. Work with an auto broker, but beware of the risks.  Auto broker and individuals with a dealer license can go to auto auctions on your behalf and buy vehicles for you at or many times below dealer trade in value.  This secondary market is where all of the dealers go to both buy more vehicles that are "hot" in their area as well as sell their excess used car inventory.  The brokers charge vary from $500 to a $1,000 for their services.  Understand that the vehicles purchased do not contain any warranty (besides the factory).  This is a better route to go than possibly going private party because from what I heard they have to disclose all work done to the vehicle.  As we all know, Carfax does not always reveal all repairs.  Many private party sellers take advantage of that and "fail" to disclose certain items during the sale.  But also understand, at an auto auction, you do not get the opportunity to have a mechanic review the car before you choose to buy.  Everything is sold as-is.  Many dealerships then refurbish the car prior to sale.  I purchased my last car from an auto broker, and the vehicle was amazing.  There were a few items on the car that were questionable, but it comes with buying the car at the cheap price
  5. Buyers beware.  New or used, when you buy the vehicle and sign on the dotted line, the vehicle, along with any skeletons it may have in its closet, is yours.  
Be sure you do your research, have a good mechanic or a certified dealership of the make review the car to make sure it's in good working order. Following these steps, you will end up with a vehicle you love, and should last you for some time to come.

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