Reviewing the Reviews: Publications to Check before Buying a Used Car

Buying used can offer significant savings over new, but not without a bit of risk. Compared to shopping for a new car, buying a used car involves a number of unknowns that can turn what looked like a good deal into a bad investment.

Information is your most valuable asset when buying a used vehicle, and these trusted industry publications will empower you to make informed decisions in your quest for a used car.

NADA Guides

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) is an organization that provides automotive information and advocacy to dealers, consumers, and others. It was founded in 1917 by a group of dealers that wanted to lower automotive luxury taxes, and became a permanent union that continues to represent automobile dealers before Congress and other government agencies.

For consumers, the association publishes NADA Guides. Since 1933, NADA Used Car Guides have offered a wealth of information to help people who are buying or selling a wide variety of vehicles. NADAguides.com was launched in 2000, and provides an exhaustive collection of resources for used car shoppers.

Kelley Blue Book

Equally venerable Kelley Blue Book began in 1918 as a single car dealership in Los Angeles, the Kelley Kar Company. In 1926, the dealership published the first Kelly Blue Book, a guide to used car values. Over the years, Kelley Blue Book grew to become a national automobile publication.

The company has grown to become the largest automotive valuation company in the United States. It launched kbb.com in 1995, and Kelley Blue Book continues to be one of the most trusted resources for information on used and new cars.

Consumer Reports

This monthly magazine has been published since 1936 by Consumers Union, a non-profit organization committed to testing products, informing the public, and protecting consumers. Consumer Reports tests all sorts of products at its in-house laboratory and publishes product reviews and comparisons based on the findings.

Consumer Reports releases the annual new car issue every April, which is generally the magazine’s best-selling issue. Information on used cars is often featured in these issues, as well as on consumerreports.org, which Consumer Reports launched in 1997. You can find an overview of the best and worst used cars on the site, and paid subscribers have access to many detailed ratings and rankings.

NADA Guides, Kelley Blue Book, and Consumer Reports are three of the most trusted and valued sources for automotive information. These publications and their websites offer comprehensive information that have helped millions of people buy and sell used cars. Take advantage of them and inform yourself before you spend any cash on a used car.

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When Is It Time to Replace My Fluid?

The fluids under your car’s hood require regular attention. If you don’t routinely check and replace these vital fluids, your car will be more prone to breakdowns, mechanical damage and even accidents.

While every fluid is vital to maintaining and protecting your car, below is a list of fluids that require regular maintenance. In addition to the tips below, check your owner’s manual for complete details on recommended scheduled maintenance times.

  • Motor Oil: The general rule of thumb for replacing motor oil is every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first. It is important to note, however, that this rule is not written in stone. Depending on the make and model of the vehicle, your car’s engine oil may only need to be replaced every 5,000 or 6,000 miles. Check the owner’s manual for specific details.
  • Transmission: Transmission fluid typically should be replaced every 20,000-30,000 miles for manual transmissions or 50,000-100,000 miles for automatic transmissions. In addition to following the scheduled maintenance times, it is important to regularly check your transmission fluid levels. Make it a point to do this once a month.
  • Brake Fluid: Brake fluid is easy to overlook, but it definitely should be included in a monthly checkup of your car’s fluids. For preventive maintenance purposes, it is a good idea to have your brake fluid replaced every two to five years.
  • Coolant: To properly protect your car, the coolant needs to be filled to its maximum level. Because this is a closed system, you should have it checked for leaks if coolant is low. Also, depending on the make and model of the vehicle, the coolant system will need to be flushed every few years.

Do not limit your car’s maintenance to simply regulating the above fluid levels. Other fluids to monitor on a regular basis include power steering and windshield washer fluid. By maintaining all of your vehicle’s fluid levels, you can ensure the reliability of your car for years to come.

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Negotiate As Little As Possible on Your Next Car

When it comes to negotiating the price on a new or used car, the dealer certainly has the advantage. These experienced salesmen have years of experience to draw from to get you to buy the vehicle today at the highest price possible. From warranty plans to financing options, a price that initially seems like a good deal might just end up costing you in the long run.

With this in mind, the key to getting the best price on a car is to negotiate as little as possible. By following some of the advice below, you will be able to get a good deal on a car before the salesman has a chance to work his magic:

  • Do your research: Unfortunately, too many people walk into the dealership waiting for the salesman to educate them on which car they should buy. Research reliability ratings, invoice prices and financing options online and over the phone to arm yourself with the information you need. When you have a thorough understanding of other potential deals, you will be able to stand firm on your car offer, confident with the knowledge that you are asking for a fair price.
  • Get your financing first: In-store financing is another tactic that car dealers use to drive up the price and keep you negotiating longer. To put yourself in control of the deal, go through an outside bank or credit union and establish a line of credit. By using your own financing options, you give the dealer one less thing to negotiate with.
  • Be prepared to walk: Since car dealers are in business to make money, they’ll often refuse perfectly reasonable offers. To avoid this, be prepared to say “no thanks” and walk away. If your deal is reasonable, the salesman will call you back and make something work.
  • Ask direct questions: You understand what you want and what you can afford. So, in order to avoid letting the car salesman talk you into something else, you should be the one asking the questions. From the make and model of the vehicle to the suggested retail price, take control of the conversation and ask questions designed to lead you to the best deal.

Remember, there is a fine line between negotiating too much and moving too fast. Yes, you want the deal to move smoothly and quickly, but you never want to sign anything before you have carefully reviewed every detail of your new used car.

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Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of Cars

This year marks the 125th Anniversary of the automobile, and Automotive News Europe decided to celebrate by creating a Legend on Wheels poll. In hopes to determine the Ultimate Legend on Wheels, the voting allows you to pick one car from each of the last 13 centuries.

I had some fun picking my choices; names like Blitzen Benz (shown above) and Lancia Lambda provided some cheap laughs (FYI: we are fresh out of both cars on UsedCars.com). But I also learned some things. Like the Rolls-Royce Phantom was introduced in the early 1920s (I’d like to see Jay-Z trick out that ride)! And the Chevrolet Suburban debuted in the 1930s.

All-in-all it was a fun way to explore the history of the car. Head on over and submit your vote for the Ultimate Legend on Wheels.

 

Carfax Vehicle History Report

How a CARFAX Vehicle History Report Works

If research is the most important part of buying a used car, then a vehicle history report is perhaps the most important document you can have when buying your next car. Of all the companies that provide vehicle history reports, CARFAX is perhaps the best known. Since 1986, CARFAX has been helping fight used car fraud by checking public records. Once you have your eye on a potential new car, check the CARFAX to make sure you’re looking at a good investment.

How to Order a CARFAX Report

CARFAX makes it easy to order a vehicle history reports. Other than payment information, the only thing you need is a vehicle’s VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number. Find a car’s 17-character VIN by looking from the outside for a label on the driver’s side dashboard. The label is sometimes in the driver’s side door instead, near the latch. If you’re searching for cars online, the VIN is often listed on the website. Go to carfax.com, enter your payment information and the VIN, and you will have immediate access to the complete CARFAX vehicle history report.

What a CARFAX Report Includes


CARFAX history reports draw from over 34,000 sources, including US and Canadian motor vehicle agencies, car auctions, repair facilities, insurance companies, car dealerships and law enforcement agencies. Vehicle history reports contain plenty of useful information about used cars. Each CARFAX report checks for:

  • Lemons
  • Multiple owners
  • Major accidents
  • Recall information
  • Airbag deployment
  • Length of ownership
  • Warranty information
  • Last reported mileage
  • Flood, frame, or hail damage
  • Estimated miles driven per year
  • Lease, personal, taxi or police use
  • Salvaged, junked, rebuilt or total loss
  • Mileage rollbacks, rollovers, inaccuracies
  • Service, inspection, and registration history

CARFAX organizes this information in an easy-to-read layout. View a sample CARFAX vehicle history report.

What a CARFAX Report May Miss

CARFAX reports may contain inaccuracies. Consumer Reports found that most erroneous reports involved seriously damaged vehicles that hadn’t been declared a total loss, but they still consider the reports useful for buying used cars.

CARFAX actually guarantees that they will buy your used car if you bought it based on an erroneous report. This guarantee is valid:

  • For one year after the report was issued
  • If you registered the vehicle within 90 days
  • If you can prove the vehicle had a branded title
  • State motor-vehicle agencies have the branding information on file

The guarantee does not include “recovered stolen” or “theft” branded vehicles, or vehicles with titles branded less than 60 days before the history report.

Buying a used car involves many personal and financial choices, and plenty of research. A CARFAX vehicle history report can help you make a more informed decision.