Best Way to Buy Used?

Messages
537
Location
California
What is the best way to buy a used car? I am near Los Angeles and will need to turn in my leased BMW in a few months. It is pretty tough to buy cars from private owners. What about the auctions or some consignment lots in the area? By the way, if I buy a car at an auction, how do I know if it is any good?
 
Messages
2,698
Location
Silicon Valley
quote:
Originally posted by carock: It is pretty tough to buy cars from private owners.
No, that's the ONLY way to buy a used car: from the original owner. You just have to find the right owner, preferably a well-informed man who doted on and garaged his baby (and divorce forces sale). Since you have time, you should decide what you want and make inquiries about it on that model's owners' web forums to learn the quirks and potential trouble areas.
 
Messages
2,513
Location
Richmond, VA
Around here I've noticed that a lot of private owners try to sell their used car for as much if not more than a used car dealer. If you buy from a dealer you at least have some recourse and remember the price is always negotiable. Beware of the private owner who buys cars from the local auction to resell. Most folks just trade in their used car instead of selling it outright. Since I work crazy hours and am not home every night it would be pretty hard to sell my used car myself so I just traded it in.
 
Messages
1,979
Location
Dallas, TX
Buying from a private owner is a great way to find a real cream-puff...it just takes a lot of looking. In this economy, sometimes people are forced to sell their 2nd or 3rd car due to some financial difficulties, and this is when you can pick up a nicely maintained, garaged car for a great price from a very motivated seller. Yes, you will encounter some 'gougers' who think that because they're the original owner, they expect to get more than KBB value for their 'baby', but individuals can be haggled too. It's just a lot easier to learn a car's history from an individual rather than trying to 'feel it out' while it's sitting on a used car lot. Used car lots can often be a dumping ground for cars that owners have become disgusted with and just want rid of, so that's their way out...trading it in. It's a lot harder to sell a piece of c-r-a-p to anyone with half a brain during a one-on-one experience in someone's driveway.
 
Messages
22,188
Location
Colorado Springs
I agree totally with the others. Hold out and find one or two owner private party vehicles with knowledgeable owners who have maintenance records. I bought my 94 Corolla from the original owner; he gave me a portfolio with about 50 receipts for various repairs and maintenance. He also walked me into his garage and showed me his oil stash/ramps and we talked about car maintenance. (I was sold at that point). You'd have a hard time finding that a vehicle honestly had oil changes and maintenance done when you buy a used vehicle from a dealer. Look at www.cars.com and www.autotrader.com and don't be afraid to travel a couple hundred miles to find "the one". I did and will likely never buy a vehicle any other way. However, like was stated, TAKE YOUR TIME and don't get emotional about a car. Look for the ads that say one or two owner, maintenance records etc. I won't even look at other ads. To tell if the cars any good, first and foremost, do a carfax, then drive the heck out of it, especially at 75 mph on the highway, look under the oil fill, pull the dipstick, check fluid levels, let the car idle and listen to the motor, run the A/C, crawl under it and make sure it looks like it wasn't taken offroading [LOL!] You know, do the usual BITOG neurotic vehicle lookover [freaknout] Take a compression tester along if you're really anal.
 
Messages
1,027
Location
East Helena, Montana
I also think that buying from a private party is your best bet. Be patient -- don't hurry it. Check out the car as best you can. Then, if you like it, take it to a good independent maintenance shop and have the shop thoroughly check the car before you buy the car. Its better to pay for a few checks on cars not worth buying than to buy a car that you didn't have checked and that turns out to have problems. Haggle on the price. Use online services to see what the value of the car is. Edmunds is a good one for used cars.
 
Messages
36,408
Location
ME
What about the beemer you already have? Don't like it? Do you have a "buy at end of lease" price in your contract? Is it more or less than you think you could get one for on the open market? If it's more, turn the car in, then go back and buy it. Don't get ripped off for "excess wear and tear." Maybe get an inspection report from an indie mechanic right before you take it in. Are you looking for something nice, some class of car or maker? Or just a reliable commuter? Cars over a few thousand bucks tend to sit in a private seller's yard b/c noone has the cash and bank financing doesn't work well with private parties. You might get a killer deal on, say, an 01 camry that the dealer tried to gyp the seller on trade-in. Are you at all handy? Would you be willing to do repairs? Are the mechanics around you honest and competent or a bunch of crooks? (I credit or discredit a good voc-tech school for pumping them out or holding them back regionwide.) It sure is easier to find a car, when you have a car, so you've got a prudent plan of action. I like private party sales of course. I use craigslist and completely ignore KBB values. In fact if someone brings up blue book that's a minus to me, it seems like they're trying to extract top dollar. I look for people that truly seem desperate and to want something gone. I tend to buy "beaters" from the bottom of the barrel however. Lousy apartments with few parking spaces and mean landlords are a good indiator of the duress of the seller. "Move this car or move yourself" is quite motivating. [Big Grin] I look for a listing that's been relisted a couple times. Then I whip out a stack of $100s and lowball 'em. I aim for a 50% success rate, that is, for every car I buy I wind up not buying one b/c the seller refuses my offer.
 

ALS

Messages
1,862
Location
Pittsburgh
As the Tech's at the Volvo dealer tell all the good customers. DON'T EVER BUY ANY EX-LEASED VEHICLE. They tell me almost every leased vehicle coming in is abused. They're filthy and trashed inside. Most of the services are behind the recommended intervals. When I talk trashed I mean I've seen many a car in the serviced area filled with Micky D bags, food on the floor and seats. The inside looks like the last time it was clean was the day they picked up the car new from the dealer.
 
Messages
1,979
Location
Dallas, TX
I don't worry too much about cosmetic items like that....as a former detailer, I never met a stain I couldn't wrangle out. What I do worry about are the things I can't see. For instance, how many times did the owner, or owner's 16 year old kid rev the engine to 5000 and drop it into drive? How many curbs were run over while pulling into the gas station? How many of the body panels / suspension parts are original to the car? How many times, and by how much were the OCIs ignored, postponed or forgotten? These are just some of the things lease cars (and rental cars) are subject to, which is why I prefer to meet and speak with the former owner on a private purchase. I'm pretty good at quick assessment of a vehicle, and love to catch people in a lie. It's pretty clear to me that if the dipstick is covered in varnish, or worse...sludge, maintenance wasn't first and formost on their minds. If a lie is discovered, I'm gone, as there's no telling what else he / she may be lying about.
 

JTK

Messages
13,363
Location
Buffalo, NY
It all depends on your circumstance. If you have the luxury of taking your time, you can scout out private sales. If you are looking for a specific vehicle and need it ASAP, an internet search of dealer inventories will be quicker. If buy it used from someone you do not know, you do not know the vehicle's history regardless to how it looks or documentation provided. Joel
 
Messages
522
Location
East Texas
I've seen some good deals on ebay. You can search by location then go and test drive the car before the auction closes. Too get the best deal, start looking well before you actually need the car.
 
Messages
2,837
Location
MO
Read awhile back that, ON AVERAGE, expect to spend $1,000 on a vehicle to bring it to decent condition. Average.... some more, some less money. Avoid collision damaged vehicles. LA car shouldn't have any rust to worry about. Make sure it can pass the smog check, make it part of the buying agreement. I would consider finding a car needing a little work..... get it cheaper!!! Plan on spending a couple grand, maybe more. Just my opinion. Pay $3,500 then put 2 grand into it.... new brakes, new fluids, refurbish the critter. Likely be a better car than one you spent $5,500 for. If you know what to look for, inspect it well, of course. Or, have a mechanic do it. Know beforehand what makes/models tend to be on the reliable side. Here is a link to a nifty method of narrowing down what vehicles to place on your possible buy list: http://reviews.ebay.com/Nifty-tip-for-weeding-out-bad-used-vehicles_W0QQugidZ10000000001434571
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Messages
45,958
Location
New Jersey
the best way is to not do it at all. If you cant afford a new car, then lower your expectations, and if you dont keep your car until 200k (regardless of make, model, etc), then youre getting ripped off in the end. If you MUST get a used car, full maintenance logs and reciepts are worth infinitely more than low miles. JMH
 
Top