Before you start shopping for a used car, do some homework. It may save you serious money. Consider your driving habits, what the car will be used for, and your budget. Research models, options, costs, repair records, safety tests, and mileage — online and through libraries and book storessites that deal with used cars. Test drive the car under varied road conditions — on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic. Ask for the car's maintenance record from the owner, dealer, or repair shop. Talk to the previous owner, especially if the current owner is unfamiliar with the car's history. Hire a mechanic to inspect the car.
Determine the value of the vehicle before you negotiate the purchase. Check the National Automobile Dealers Association's (NADA) Guides, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book. Research the frequency of repair and maintenance costs on the models in auto-related consumer magazines. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Vehicle Safety Hotline (1-888-327-4236) and website gives information on recalls. Check a trusted database service that gathers information from state and local authorities, salvage yards, and insurance companies for an independent and efficient review of a vehicle’s history. For example, the Department of Justice’s National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) offers information about a vehicle’s title, odometer data, and certain damage history. Expect to pay a nominal fee for each report. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) maintains a free database that includes flood damage and other information so you can investigate a car's history by its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You also can search online for companies that sell vehicle history reports. If the report isn't recent or you suspect that it has missing or fabricated information
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