What enables people to be on time for a scheduled appointment,
attend a favorite social event or recreational activity,
or just drive on a pleasant summer day? What machine do
many people get to know as if it were almost a member
of the family? What enables drivers to experience greater
freedom? Of course, what else but the automobile. Or in
today's terms: the automobile, sport-utility vehicle,
More and more people are realizing that the cost of new
transportation can really throw a budget into reverse.
In many instances, today's new vehicle prices compare
to the cost of a new home just a generation ago.
Since dependable transportation is a necessity--do not
despair; a two to four-year old used vehicle can be purchased
at a savings of 25 to 50 percent as compared to its cost
when new. Additionally, the number of well-built, dependable
vehicles has increased during the past decade.
When well maintained these vehicles can be driven for
many miles, and they are now available at substantial
The purchase of a dependable, reasonably priced used
vehicle is not a matter of chance or luck, but rather,
it is a matter of knowledge and understanding. Becoming
informed is one of the most important factors in successfully
purchasing a dependable used vehicle at the best price.
Gathering Information: Variety is the spice of life.
Certainly, the number of vehicles that are available today
can add spice to one's daily travels. Literally hundreds
of different vehicles are available, but which one is
the best for you? To better determine the vehicle that
satisfies your transportation needs, first take the time
to carefully identify your current and future driving
needs, then become aware of the many available vehicles,
and finally, zero in on the vehicles that best meet your
A vary dangerous frame of mind to be in is to "fall
head over heels" for a particular make or model of
vehicle based purely on emotion. Although some emotion
is always part of life, it is wise to put excessive emotions
aside and focus on day-in and day-out transportation needs.
Some questions to consider about transportation needs
- How many people will be transported in the vehicle?
- What type of objects and cargo will be transported
in the vehicle (space considerations)?
- Will driving be conducted in poor whether conditions
or off-road (rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-
- Will stop-and-go or interstate driving be performed?
Thus, is an automatic, a semi-automatic, or a standard
- Is there a preference for a domestic or a foreign vehicle?
- In a sport-utility vehicle, is a more rugged full box
type frame needed for off-road driving, or will a unit-body
type frame be suitable for intended general highway driving?
Additionally, what towing capacity should the sport-utility
- In a minivan, are sliding doors needed on both sides,
the left-side or the right-side of the vehicle for easier
entry and exit?
- How much will insurance cost to protect the driver
and the vehicle (consider obtaining an insurance quote
before buying a vehicle)?
- What is the approximate amount of money to be spent
on a vehicle?
If you are not familiar with which vehicles meet your
transportation needs, consider visiting a local public
library to consult the yearly publication or the April
magazine issue of Consumer Reports. This objective information
source provides technical specifications for vehicles
including the size, weight, engine horsepower, optional
equipment, and miles per gallon of fuel. If technical
information is desired for a specific used vehicle, review
the Consumer Reports issue that matches the vehicle's
year (1998 Toyota Avalon--consult the 1998 April issue
of Consumer Reports).
After determining the type of automobile, sport-utility
vehicle, or minivan that satisfies your needs, it is worthwhile
to consult Consumer Reports' frequency-of-repair information
to identify specific vehicles that will likely have fewer
future repairs. Regarding the frequency-of-repair information,
if a vehicle of interest is six years old or less, consult
the most recent April edition of Consumer Reports. If
the vehicle is more than six years old, add five years
to the vehicle's year and then consult that year's April
issue of Consumer Reports.
Web discussion groups are also a good source of "from
the street" information for identifying the strengths
and weaknesses of specific vehicles.
It is a good idea to identify at least two or three used
vehicles that meet your transportation needs. Then, instead
of being in a position to only consider vehicle A, you
will have the flexibility to consider vehicle A, B, or
C. This increases your ability to purchase a used vehicle
that is in excellent condition at the best price.
In addition to becoming informed about particular vehicles,
it is worthwhile to learn the approximate prices for vehicles
To obtain a general idea of vehicle prices, consult the
current monthly edition of the N.A.D.A. Official Used
Car Guide at a public library, bank, or automobile dealership.
Vehicle price information can also be obtained by consulting
the vehicle classified sections of major newspapers at
a public library. This is a convenient way to get a read
on future prices, because vehicle price trends usually
begin in major cities and then progress to other areas
of the country. The bottom line on becoming informed about
vehicles and prices is to obtain a used vehicle that is
in excellent condition, with a low repair history, and
at a substantial savings.
Identifying Used Vehicle Sources: There are a number
of possible used vehicle sources from which to choose.
Rather than becoming overwhelmed with all the possible
sources, keep in mind that each source is actually competing
with the others. Therefore, when shopping for a vehicle,
be certain to let each source know that you are also considering
the other sources.
Some of the sources to consider when buying a used vehicle
- The Internet (Investigate if the source is reputable)
- Used automobile lots (buyer beware)
- Rental car companies
- Company vehicles
- New automobile dealerships (investigate if the dealer
- Private owners
Contacting a used vehicle source by telephone and obtaining
specific information can help to reduce unnecessary legwork.
The telephone inquiry will enable you to determine if
a vehicle is worth your time to investigate.
Some questions to ask a private owner or other used vehicle
source about a vehicle include:
- How many miles has the vehicle been driven (the average
is about 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year)?
- Is the transmission an automatic, a semi-automatic,
or a manual? If the transmission is not what you want,
there is no need to ask further questions.
- What is the condition of the vehicle's body? Is there
- Has the vehicle been repainted and if so, why? Avoid
repainted vehicles. It is better to see the original paint
even if a few small stone chips need to be touched-up.
- Has the vehicle been involved in any accidents? Avoid
vehicles that have been involved in any accidents.
- When are the next state inspection and emissions standard
test due? The vehicle should have a minimum of at least
six months remaining until the next required state inspection
and emissions test.
- How often were the engine oil and the oil filter changed,
and who performed the service? An acceptable answer would
be every 3,000 to 3,500 miles or about every three to
- Are you the original owner of the vehicle? Original
owners tend to take better care of vehicles.
- What is the reason that the vehicle is being sold?
It is encouraging if the individual is the original owner
and if he or she is planning to again buy the same make
- Are parts and service readily available for the vehicle?
Where can parts and services be obtained? Avoid buying
a vehicle if parts and service are not readily available.
- Has the vehicle had any recent repairs (new brakes,
tires, exhaust, battery) or service and if so, what garage
performed the repairs or service?
- What price are you asking for the vehicle?
The interior and exterior inspections and the vehicle
test-drive are used to verify the information obtained
during the telephone inquiry.