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Most recent posting below. See other articles in the column to the right.

Eight Tips for Buying a Used Car

1. Make sure the car’s body is straight. Stand behind the car and see if the rear wheels are squarely lined up behind the front wheels. If the car is slightly off-centered then it could mean the frame is bent due to an accident.

2. Closely examine the interior of the car – check in the doorjams and the underside of the hood for mismatching paint colors. If there are paint issues, it probably means the car was repainted due to an accident.

3. Check the car for water damage – there are thousands of used cars on the market that have suffered extensive flood and water damage. Check for dried mud in the cracks and crevices under the hood, notice damp or musty odors, look for newly replaced carpet or upholstery.

4. Take a look under the hood. Even though you may no nothing about the car’s engine, you can check to see how well the car was maintained by looking at the belts and hoses for cracks and tears. Also look for leaking, dripping fluids.

5. Take a look under the car. Check for leaking fluids and small puddles of oil, water, and other fluids. Leaks could mean expensive repairs down the line.

6. Check the odometer for the mileage. Tampering with the odometer is a wide spread practice in the used car market. The average driver will travel 12,000-15,000 miles per year. Do the math – if the miles are high, think again. If the miles are too low, become suspicious and look elsewhere.

7. Get a Vehicle History Report. Write down the car’s VIN number and then get a detailed report from CARFAX. There is a small cost involved for getting this information but is well worth it. The report will reveal the car’s true history including accidents, odometer tampering and salvage titles.

8. Get your mechanic to inspect the car before you buy it. This is a no-brainer. Your mechanic will tell you what the car needs now and what you could be looking at down the road for repairs.

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