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Buying a used car is one consumer decision seemingly fraught with peril. What if you get a lemon? What if the seller lied about the car’s history? Which cars hold the best value? However, when it’s done right, buying a pre-owned car can save you money and get you more car for your money than buying a new one.

Following a few tips for buying a pre-owned car can make it feel less like taking a risk and more like making an investment.

Know Your Resources

When it comes to shopping for a pre-owned car, several resources can help you make your final decision and provide information to help you make a more informed decisions.

  • FTC: The Federal Trade Commission is the national government organization tasked with protecting consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices. The FTC maintains a web page devoted specifically to buying a used car including what to look for, payment options and how to handle private sales.
  • Publications: Three primary publications track car value and provide information for all makes and models of cars in various conditions. Knowing the value can help you better negotiate a price. The guides are the National Automobile Dealers Association GuideEdmunds and Kelley Blue Book.
  • Repair and Maintenance Concerns: Automakers issue various recalls on certain makes and models for both minor issues and major mechanical problems. The United States Department of Transportation maintains a Vehicle Safety Hotline (1-888-327-4236) and website providing information on recalls.

These websites can provide a lot of information to help you get started with and fee more comfortable as you look for a pre-owned car.

Maintenance Records

Knowing a car’s history plays an important role in the buying process because whether or not the car will run well and remain in good condition in the long run is a key concern when buying a pre-owned car.

Ask the current owner for a full service history on the car including records of oil changes, when tires were purchased, work completed by a dealer, recalls or repairs, and other relevant maintenance records. If the current owner doesn’t have the information, try to contact the previous owner to get a clear picture of the car’s history.

You can also use a company that sells car history reports and look up information using a car’s Vehicle Identification Number. The federal government can track down information as well through the Department of Justices’ National Motor Vehicle Title Information System or the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

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Visit a Dealership

Some buyers feel uncomfortable buying a pre-owned car from a private seller so visiting a reputable dealership like Route 22 Toyota can help alleviate those concerns. When buying from a dealership, check that the dealership complies with the FTC’s used car rules, which include posting a Buyer’s Guide in every used car.

The Buyer’s Guide should include information including whether the car is being sold “as is,” your right to seek an independent evaluation by a private mechanic, and what repairs the dealership will make on the car.

Don’t let fears or rumors scare you away from the great deals to be found in pre-owned car. Shop smart, know your resources and you could find the perfect car for less money.

Mike Weaver is a car salesmen with over 30 years of industry experience. When Mike isn’t selling cars, he enjoys blogging about different car buying tips as well as general news happening in the automotive industry.