Having long been a consumer journalist -- in Connecticut, specializing in
autos... I offer this:
Don't necessarily go for certified or fixed price.You'll probably pay more
at a fixed price place. Find a late model car - Camry is a spectacular
choice - at a new car dealer who sells that model, exactly as you are doing.
Ask where the vehicle came from. Tell him you are looking for a vehicle
traded in by someone local whom you can call, preferably one sold and taken
care of by that dealership. (You can ask him for the repair records. You
also can ask him to run the vehicle through the Toyota computer system to
see if there are any outstanding technical service bulletins or recalls).
This is the key for getting a great late model car. You WILL want to see the
paperwork on the vehicle, the title (if he has it. It still may be in the
hands of the former owner's finance company - which means the dealer may not
have paid it off - some danger here) or any other paperwork, including the
power of attorney document for the odometer (if there is no title).
The dealer may balk at showing you the paperwork, citing privacy laws, etc.
Insist. (You also may find the former owner's name on bills or other
paperwork in the glove box. Dealers usually look for this stuff before you
do.) If the dealer won't give you the name, assume the car is a former
rental, salvage, junk, flood, stolen, etc. If it is a former lease that he
got through an auction, the dealer won't know the name of the former owner,
and the paperwork probably won't show it. For best results, skip any car
Before you call the owner, you might as well negotiate the price. That means
you probably want to get the dealer's "best price" and then go home and
check some of the automotive pricing web sites to see how ridiculous it.
Then go back. When negotiating, make sure you find out all the add-on
charges at that dealership... conveyance fees, door knob shining fee, mirror
alignment fee, putting up with all your questions fee :o) etc. If you are
happy with the price, call the owner and politely find out everything you
can - the good, the bad, the ugly. You can order a history report from
Carfax or Experian. But don't rely on the reports if they show nothing. You
have to talk to the former owner. Try for a car with only one former owner.
The last thing you should do is have a good mechanic look at the vehicle -
completely. He should be able to give you a written report for about $100
During the sale, do not get extended warranties (well, you can if it is from
Toyota, but it really should not be necessary if you followed these steps).
Don't get car wax, under-coating, windshield tinting, gas pedal buffing, dip
stick glazing or tire pressure assurance plan :o)
If the dealer promises to fix anything but has to order parts, get the
promise IN WRITING!!!
Be careful if you are financing. Look at rates elsewhere. Better yet, pay
cash. Oh..............if you are leaving a deposit, put it on a CREDIT CARD.
DO NOT write a check. Leave as little as possible. Don't sign any contracts
until you are certain and have read everything.
These steps aren't as difficult as they same and will assure you of a
fantastic used car. When I help people buy cars, these are exactly the steps
Write back and let us know how you did.
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