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Shopping for a pre-owned car

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Updated: 3/28/2003 12:53 pm
There are four major sources of pre-owned vehicles: dealers, private individuals, auctions, and car rental companies. If you're not an expert mechanic or are experienced in buying used cars, a dealer can sometimes offer you the security of a limited-time warranty, the opportunity to trade in your present vehicle, and, if the dealer is a reputable one, the peace of mind of knowing that you're not being duped into buying a lemon. In most cases, if you purchase from a private individual your agreement will be purchase 'as is,' in which case you have no guarantees or recourse if the vehicle develops problems later. Similarly, purchasing from an auction usually involves making a very quick decision with no guarantees or opportunities to reverse the sale. Several car rental companies sell pre-owned rental cars directly to the public. These vehicles are generally no more than a year old, and have been well maintained. If you're unsure about the history of a pre-owned car and you have time to do so, you can obtain a complete title history from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. There are also private organizations offering complete vehicle histories for a modest fee. A complete title history is helpful in revealing any history of lemon reports or instances of odometer tampering. It's important to check that the seller is fully entitled to sell the vehicle and that there are no outstanding liens or other hinders to the transaction, particularly if you're buying from an individual. It's also a sensible precaution to have your pre-owned vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic before making any purchase decision.

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