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Inspecting Used Cars

Is it necessary? Probably one of the most important pieces of advice concerning used cars concerns their inspection. No two owners maintain their vehicles in the same way. Some are religious about oil changes, transmission services and brake inspections. Others have no idea what any of the preceding terms even mean, let alone actually doing them. Most owners are somewhere in between. The problem arises when you need to know which kind of owner the previous one was and there is no way to truly find out. In addition to maintenance, you need to be concerned about previous body damage, flood damage or lingering service problems. For these reasons, a comprehensive inspection of any used car you seriously consider is a necessity.

Effectively inspecting a used car is a 2 part process: first, a
personal inspection will reveal problems or deficiencies that will eliminate certain cars. Second, a professional inspection will take a more in-depth look at a vehicle in which you are interested in purchasing. A word of caution: if a seller of a used car, whether it be a dealership or an individual, will not allow you to have the car inspected by a professional, BEWARE! There is absolutely no good reason why a seller would want to avoid an inspection, unless there was something to hide. You may hear excuses such as: "our insurance won't allow it," or "this car has been thoroughly checked. There is no reason to get it inspected again." There are too many used cars available for sale to waste your time (and money) taking chances on a vehicle that you did not inspect. At today's cost of automobile service and repairs, one defective item could end up turning an apparent good deal into a horrible one.

Who should do the inspection? First, you want to have someone with real automobile technician experience to do the inspection. Uncle Jim might claim to know everything there is to know about cars, but unless he has spent time being trained in diagnosis and repair of automobile problems, his "inspection" will be little more than his opinion. He also may be of the "CYA" school of thought, meaning that to prevent you from coming back to him and saying "hey, Uncle Jim, you told me that the car I bought was fine and now it needs work!" he will find something wrong with every vehicle you show him. Get an impartial (and educated) opinion. If you have a regular mechanic, they will probably be willing to inspect the car for you, or, find a mechanic in your area who does used car inspections.

What does an inspection involve? A good inspection will examine all of the important safety and performance items on the vehicle, including the engine and transmission, the braking and steering systems, electrical components, tires, and the overall condition of the car. An inspection will reveal potential current problems as well as those that are imminent, such as brake pads that are at the end of their life span and will need to be replaced in the near future. A good inspection report will also include a written report for your reference and records. An inspection is not a guarantee that you will never have problems with the car, but it goes a whole lot further than not having the vehicle inspected at all.

Are there other items that should be checked? Another source of information on used cars is Experian Automotive, which will develop a "Lemon Report" for you. The used vehicle you may purchase can leave you asking many questions about its past – was it salvaged? Has it had flood damage? How about odometer fraud? Is there a clean title history? Experian Automotive provides the answers you need to proceed with confidence or steer clear of a problem car. Use the 17-character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) found on dashboards and title documents to uncover costly hidden problems or guarantee a clean title history in seconds.

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