5 Ways To Buy A Used Car

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1. Certified Pre-Owned

Certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles are used cars that have been inspected, refurbished and certified by a manufacturer or other authority, thereby providing the consumer with some confidence regarding the vehicle's condition. CPOs usually include an extended warranty and often special financing offers, providing new car benefits at a used car price. Most dealers advertise CPO vehicles and may even devote an entire lot to these types of cars. CPOs are typically more expensive than non-certified used cars, but often the benefits (such as the extended warranty) outweigh the extra costs.

2. Superstores

Used car superstore CarMax (www.carmax.com) is a Fortune 500 company that offers thousands of vehicles for sale through its 100+ locations nationwide. Consumers can search for vehicles by make, vehicle type, model & price, features and MPG on the CarMax website. CarMax offers its buyers a five-day money-back guarantee, a limited 30-day warranty, extended service plans and free vehicle history reports. CarMax offers financing, as well as money for trade-ins.

3. Government Auctions

Thousands of seized, surplus and forfeited cars each month are sold at online and live auction venues. These vehicles are the property of the federal government, and due to the high costs associated with storage, they must be sold quickly and at appealing prices. No financing is offered and buyers must be able to pay for the item using cash, a bank cashier's check, a U.S. Postal Service or commercial money order, Traveler's checks, a personal or company check that is accompanied by a bank letter of guarantee, or by credit card. Bids cannot be lowered or canceled.

4. eBay

Officials at eBay have indicated that every 52 seconds, a passenger vehicle sells on its website. eBay first launched its Motors area in 2000 and is expected to reach $18 billion in sales this year. When a car is purchased on eBay, it is usually done sight-unseen which can be unsettling for some buyers. Checking the seller's feedback and bidding on an auction that allows buyers to back out of the purchase after inspecting the car are two ways buyers can help protect themselves when purchasing a car through eBay. Sellers usually expect to be paid in cash, and buyers should be wary or entirely avoid sellers asking for upfront money transfers.

5. Private Sales

Buyers can look for used cars in the classified ads in the local newspaper or at online classified websites such as www.craigslist.com. Unlike the other methods of buying used cars, private sales through classified ads or signs placed on the car match buyers with people who are usually just selling one car (rather than a whole fleet). Care should be taken to ensure that the seller is asking a fair price, and it is a good idea to have an inspection performed by a qualified mechanic prior to purchase.

Bottom Line

Regardless of where a new car is purchased, consumers should be cautious and do adequate research to help protect themselves against both a bad car and a bad deal. Services such as CARFAX (www.carfax.com) provide vehicle history reports for a small fee that detail title problems, ownership history, and accident and service records. Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) is a trusted source for finding the current value of a vehicle.

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