Questions to ask when buying a used car

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Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby InvestoGuy » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:59 am

Folks:
I have identified a used Acura MDX 2009. I am about to start negotiations with the dealer. The car is not In my town, so a physical inspection / test drive is not possible. Need some advice on:
1. Other than Edmunds and KBB, how do I determine the price is fair?
2. How do I make sure it is not a lemon or does not have any issues? Is Carfax enough?
3. How do I negotiate on the price? I may not have a trade in, so what are the levers to pull?
4. Any other advice?

Regards.
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby Peter Foley » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:25 am

One thing you might do is search for the car on Carguru.com. Carguru tries to add some perspective as to the relative value of the vehicle in the market you are in. It also provides information regarding how long the car has been on Carguru. The longer the spell on Carguru the more leverage you might have in negotiations.

If it a Certified Pre Owned vehile it might come with some manufacturer's warrantee. That would be a plus.
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby johnep » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:50 am

Check Carmax's prices for this car on their website for comparably equipped and same mileage. I consider this "high retail" and you should be able to negotiate a better price from the dealer. If not, I would make sure the dealer has included it as a certified car with a warranty or else go with Carmax because they are cautious about what they sell and clean them up nice.

I would never buy a used car without having the ability to inspect it and test drive it. There are too many things that can go wrong with this type of purchase. I strongly advise checking the car out in person and you could also have a local mechanic in that town check it too. That would cost a little money but would be well worth it in my opinion.

Why are you so attracted to this car in another town without seeing it? Is it price? If it seems lower than comparable Acuras, you should be very cautious. It may be a good price, but there also may be a good reason it is a lower price, i.e. repaired body damage, mechanical issues, etc.

Is the car covered by the original warranty? Is this an Acura dealer and has he certified the car, meaning he provides an extended bumper to bumper warranty for the first 12,000 miles (I assume this because Toyota does this for their cars).

Not having a tradein actually simplifies the negotiation. A tradein is really a second transaction and dealers often muddle the two transactions to confuse the buyer. Therefore, you have a better negotiation position on this. Determine what the highest price you will pay is and negotiate. The greatest power you have is to walk away if you do not get it.

Best wishes.
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby MDfive21 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:03 pm

a clean carfax/autocheck should not be relied upon as an indication that the car has never been wrecked. there are plenty of cars out there (mine included) that were wrecked and have frame damage, but are not reported to the authorities polled by carfax.

in the following case there would be no record for carfax to find: there is a single car accident.. owner takes it to his buddy mechanic or a cheapo body shop, who pieces is back together so it runs pretty much ok, then the owner sells it before the misaligned parts begin to vibrate and fall apart.

there is buyback protection, but it is only good if carfax misses a public record and even then, the time constraints make it pretty useless. it does not cover you in the event the car was wrecked but not reported.
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby Fallible » Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:56 pm

johnep wrote:Check Carmax's prices for this car on their website for comparably equipped and same mileage. I consider this "high retail" and you should be able to negotiate a better price from the dealer. If not, I would make sure the dealer has included it as a certified car with a warranty or else go with Carmax because they are cautious about what they sell and clean them up nice.

I would never buy a used car without having the ability to inspect it and test drive it. There are too many things that can go wrong with this type of purchase. I strongly advise checking the car out in person and you could also have a local mechanic in that town check it too. That would cost a little money but would be well worth it in my opinion....


I've bought several used cars over the years (all with successful outcomes), often with help from a family member who knew cars, and one thing I would NEVER do is buy a car without AT LEAST one test drive and preferably a few more depending on how the first goes. The best example I can offer from my experience is when I decided on a used Mazda Protege at a dealership where a bunch of Proteges had just come in from a rental agency. All had similar mileage and looked pretty much the same. I decided to test drive each one and of the group, only one ran like new. All the others had vibrations, odd hums from somewhere, poor acceleration, questionable braking, etc. After being checked over by a mechanic from another garage (who also commented on the car's like-new performance), I bought it. That was in 2004 and it's doing great.
"Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing." -William James
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby sdrone » Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:00 pm

IMO, the 2 biggest steps are...

1. KNow what you want to pay before you go to the dealer. I base my price on blue book plus like to like comparisons.
2. Be absolutely ready to walk out if you aren't going to get your price. Last time I bought a used car (2 years ago) I dunno if I can count how many times I said "well, OK, but this was my offer and it hasn't changed."
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby Fallible » Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:12 pm

MDfive21 wrote:a clean carfax/autocheck should not be relied upon as an indication that the car has never been wrecked. there are plenty of cars out there (mine included) that were wrecked and have frame damage, but are not reported to the authorities polled by carfax.

in the following case there would be no record for carfax to find: there is a single car accident.. owner takes it to his buddy mechanic or a cheapo body shop, who pieces is back together so it runs pretty much ok, then the owner sells it before the misaligned parts begin to vibrate and fall apart.

there is buyback protection, but it is only good if carfax misses a public record and even then, the time constraints make it pretty useless. it does not cover you in the event the car was wrecked but not reported.


I've been told by auto body shops that the key damage to avoid in a used car is frame damage and they also told me how to spot it, which usually was quite easy. The reason they told me this was because I would sometimes bring in used cars for them to check out and most had accident damage easy to spot - once you knew where to look, which I didn't. After they showed me how and where to look for damage, I was then a much smarter buyer. But what surprised me later was the response from car salesmen when I first asked if the car had been in an accident. To a salesman their response was a firm "No." With my newly trained eye, I would then look for damage and almost always find it. I'd then move on to another car, but I remember one time I decided to point out signs of frame damage to a salesman and he said, "Oh, that's just minor."
"Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing." -William James
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby EternalOptimist » Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:47 pm

As a frame of reference, look at similar cars on Craigslist and Autotrader to see if there is comparability
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby NHRATA01 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:27 pm

InvestoGuy wrote:Folks:
I have identified a used Acura MDX 2009. I am about to start negotiations with the dealer. The car is not In my town, so a physical inspection / test drive is not possible. Need some advice on:
1. Other than Edmunds and KBB, how do I determine the price is fair?
2. How do I make sure it is not a lemon or does not have any issues? Is Carfax enough?
3. How do I negotiate on the price? I may not have a trade in, so what are the levers to pull?
4. Any other advice?

Regards.

I will just say, never buy a car site unseen. Far too much risk for such a large purchase.

If you are not particularly mechanically inclined, the best course is to have a trustworthy mechanic take a look at it on the test drive and put it up on a lift. They will usually do this for a fair sum. Failing that, at minimum you must go and test drive the vehicle at both around town and highway speeds.

Carfax is kind of like a pregnancy test (sorry for the analogy, I have 3 kids from 1-5yrs!) in that if something shows up, there's a problem (regarding the car, not the potential child!) however just because nothing shows up does not mean there aren't unreported issues. It is very easy to hid things from a carfax. Out of curiosity I carfaxed my first car once a few years back - yes I remember the VIN - and of my 2 fender benders from my younger days, only one was reported. And I did nothing out of the ordinary to attempt to conceal the other. The repair shop simply didn't document it to whatever database carfax pulls from. Long/short, don't take carfax as bible.

Edmunds and KBB are acceptable. For an MDX, take the wholesale value number they show and offer the dealer $1-$2K above it, and see if they bite.
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby InvestoGuy » Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:16 pm

Thank you all for your great insights. I learned a lot of new things. This is great info. Regards.
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby NateW » Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:40 pm

Fallible wrote:
MDfive21 wrote:a clean carfax/autocheck should not be relied upon as an indication that the car has never been wrecked. there are plenty of cars out there (mine included) that were wrecked and have frame damage, but are not reported to the authorities polled by carfax.

in the following case there would be no record for carfax to find: there is a single car accident.. owner takes it to his buddy mechanic or a cheapo body shop, who pieces is back together so it runs pretty much ok, then the owner sells it before the misaligned parts begin to vibrate and fall apart.

there is buyback protection, but it is only good if carfax misses a public record and even then, the time constraints make it pretty useless. it does not cover you in the event the car was wrecked but not reported.


I've been told by auto body shops that the key damage to avoid in a used car is frame damage and they also told me how to spot it, which usually was quite easy. The reason they told me this was because I would sometimes bring in used cars for them to check out and most had accident damage easy to spot - once you knew where to look, which I didn't. After they showed me how and where to look for damage, I was then a much smarter buyer. But what surprised me later was the response from car salesmen when I first asked if the car had been in an accident. To a salesman their response was a firm "No." With my newly trained eye, I would then look for damage and almost always find it. I'd then move on to another car, but I remember one time I decided to point out signs of frame damage to a salesman and he said, "Oh, that's just minor."

And, how do you spot frame damage? Thanks,

--Nate
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby Fallible » Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:17 pm

NateW wrote:...I've been told by auto body shops that the key damage to avoid in a used car is frame damage and they also told me how to spot it, which usually was quite easy. The reason they told me this was because I would sometimes bring in used cars for them to check out and most had accident damage easy to spot - once you knew where to look, which I didn't. After they showed me how and where to look for damage, I was then a much smarter buyer. But what surprised me later was the response from car salesmen when I first asked if the car had been in an accident. To a salesman their response was a firm "No." With my newly trained eye, I would then look for damage and almost always find it. I'd then move on to another car, but I remember one time I decided to point out signs of frame damage to a salesman and he said, "Oh, that's just minor."


And, how do you spot frame damage? Thanks,
--Nate[/quote]

It's pretty easy. The easiest I remember seeing was a bend in the frame that could be seen with a flashlight under the hood by looking to the side beneath the engine. The bend, or dent, looked slight to me but the auto body shop guy said it was serious. Next he showed me the frame underneath the car and said mainly to look for new welding, new parts. Another was gaps or improper fitting of the doors and the trunk. Another is improper wheel alignment and he said to drive the car and have someone drive behind to see if the car is traveling straight. There probably are more signs, but these are the ones I remember. Another accident sign was the hood; a replacement hood might not have a factory sticker on the inside and you might be able to see the difference between its new connections to older, original parts, plus it also may not fit properly. I'm sure there are others, but really, once you see the first evidence of frame damage, you return the car and look for something another.
"Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing." -William James
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Re: Questions to ask when buying a used car

Postby DiscoBunny1979 » Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:43 pm

Fallible wrote:
I've been told by auto body shops that the key damage to avoid in a used car is frame damage and they also told me how to spot it, which usually was quite easy. The reason they told me this was because I would sometimes bring in used cars for them to check out and most had accident damage easy to spot - once you knew where to look, which I didn't. After they showed me how and where to look for damage, I was then a much smarter buyer. But what surprised me later was the response from car salesmen when I first asked if the car had been in an accident. To a salesman their response was a firm "No." With my newly trained eye, I would then look for damage and almost always find it. I'd then move on to another car, but I remember one time I decided to point out signs of frame damage to a salesman and he said, "Oh, that's just minor."


--------------------

I can also suggest that if one is rushed or just wants to get the deal done, that walking away might be better than signing. My personal experience is with the purchase of Jeep Grand Cherokee that had all the bells and whistles and I was quite excited to see it marked down $5,000 from what they were originally asked - which made it quite a deal at the time for a pre-owned SUV. I asked all the usually questions, took it for a test drive, looked it over for about an hour but since I had a dinner engagement, and wanted to drive it right then, I decided to negotiate the final price. I paid for the vehicle and walked away thinking I had a good deal. Later that evening I noticed a ding on the side of it that I swear wasn't there when I looked at it, but brushed it off as my error. Later in the week, I decided to take it in to a mechanic to get it looked at by a 'professional'. It turned out that all 4 motor mounts were broken, the power steering line had to be replaced, and some other minor problems. It wasn't fine that I was driving around and the motor could have dropped at any moment. A few days later, I had a flat tire and phoned the tow service. The guy came out to ease the vehicle on the tow flat bed truck . . . and then said . . . " you know this might have been in an accident". What he was referring to and pointed out was the soldered front and back of the body of the vehcile that could be seen looking underneath. What was frustrating was that the auto mechanic I took the vehicle to said nothing about this, but a tow guy was nice enough to show me. The lesson here is that 1) auto mechanics might not point out everything that's wrong, and 2) a full inspection of the vehicle should be done at the place of purchase (or ask to take it a service center) and personally look not only at it, under the hood, but get on the hands and knees and look under at everything - which might mean getting it up in the air on some lift or something to check the underside for welding marks.
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