AAA offers tips for getting deal on used car

Although many Nevadans may need a different car, the faltering economy means now isn’t the time for most motorists to buy a new vehicle. To make buying a used vehicle as easy and inexpensive as possible, AAA Nevada is providing tips on choosing and buying the car you need.

The decline in new-vehicle sales has been widely reported, but Americans don’t need their cars any less. When their current vehicles require replacement, many are looking to used-vehicle dealers. According to CNW Market Research, consumers will purchase 40 million used vehicles by the end of the year.

“A used car can deliver thousands of trouble-free miles — if you’re willing to put in the effort to make sure it’s a good buy,” said Michael Geeser, AAA Nevada spokesperson.

“One option for AAA members is to go through AAA Vehicle Purchasing Service, which offers quality used cars at haggle-free, prenegotiated prices.”

AAA offers these steps to take the gamble out of used-vehicle buying:

* Decide what kind of vehicle you need. Ask yourself several questions to evaluate all aspects of your lifestyle, such as: How large is your family now and might it be in the near future? How long is your commute? Will you need to tow a boat or use it for other recreational purposes? Do you travel with pets? Do you want a more environmentally friendly vehicle?

When considering fuel economy, keep in mind that prices have fluctuated greatly in the past year and likely will not remain at current levels throughout the ownership of the vehicle.

* Talk to owners of similar vehicles. Most owners will share their experiences about their vehicles. Ask about maintenance, major and minor problems and gas mileage. Many online forums are dedicated to specific makes and models and can be a good resource for owner feedback.

* Determine what you can afford and secure financing in advance. Don’t wait until you’re at a dealer to think about financing. Due to the financial crunch, many dealers are having difficulty providing financing for buyers — even if they are well qualified. And if you are approved, it might not be the best rate. Research financing options in advance.

* Get an estimate of current pricing. Check the used-vehicle ads in the classified section of your newspaper, used- vehicle advertising specialty publications and online services, such as www.aaa.com, Craigslist and Kelley Blue Book. These listings will give you some idea of current retail prices. New-vehicle dealerships are another good place to compare prices on used vehicles, but remember dealer prices are usually higher than those in classified ads.

* Determine if you want to purchase a vehicle from a private owner or a dealer. While you might be able to negotiate a lower price from a private owner, the vehicle usually does not come with a guarantee that many dealers offer. If you’re buying the vehicle from a dealer, read the entire contract carefully. Ask any questions and correct any problems before you sign, and keep a copy of the contract.

In a private sale, check that the seller is, in fact, the registered owner of the vehicle. Make sure you get the vehicle’s title and a bill of sale. Remember, most private party sales are “as is.” You might get a good deal from a family member or friend, but keep in mind it also can be a later source of friction if the vehicle turns out to have problems.

* Get a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. Reports can reveal hidden problems such as involvement in a major accident, flood or fire damage or odometer fraud, or alert you that a vehicle was previously used as a rental, taxi or fleet vehicle.

Some dealerships will provide a history report or you can search on your own. AAA members can purchase CARFAX Vehicle History Reports online at www.aaa.com/auto.

* Always take a road test. Make sure the test is more than just a drive around the block. Check how the vehicle handles at highway speeds and in stop-and-go traffic.

* Have a mechanic check it out. You likely will have to pay a fee to have the vehicle inspected; however it’s worth the money to catch looming mechanical problems in advance. Many AAA-approved auto repair shops offer comprehensive vehicle inspections. To find a nearby AAA approved shop visit www.aaa.com/repair.

* Shop around. Don’t be so enamored with a particular model that good judgment falls by the wayside. The first one you see may not be the best deal.

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