Also, it is extremely helpful to find someone you know or someone in your community who has a lawn ornament (parts car) that's the same make and model of the car you are currently driving. Work out a deal with them, and use that car to add features and/or repairs to your car you'd otherwise have to buy.
1. For the mechanically inclined: Buy a broken car for cheap and fix it yourself but do your research on costs for parts and tools. If you choose this route, look for potential buys from mechanic shops and auto dismantlers.
2. Do your research and find a good used car. I suggest a well maintained Honda or Toyota. The later the model the better. You need to find one that has good service records and hasn't been abused. Racing and performance modifications are a red flag. Stick shift cars tend to be abused more from hot rod driving.
If the car has a lot of miles on it make sure it has had its timing belt replaced and don't just take the owners word. Garage kept cars from older people are usually a good buy. A car's interior is a good indicator of how well the car was taken care of. If the interior is trashed so is the rest of the car.
Avoid primered cars. The primer is usually covering something bad. Try to avoid lemons like the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. The more research you do, the better off you are.
You can get the best deals during the last few days of the month when they are trying to make their numbers for the month. NEVER tell them that you have a trade - until after you have made your best deal and it is IN WRITING. If they won't meet the price that you have set for yourself be prepared to walk away. You would be amazed at what a change in attitude this can create.
Do not postpone your shopping if it's raining as this too gives you an advantage as fewer people will car shop in the rain. Be sure that they will either allow you to have YOUR mechanic check it out PRIOR to buying it, will warranty it themselves, or will guarantee its condition in writing.
One last bit of advice, check the internet for car dealerships that have the same vehicle available and check them all out before making your purchase. You can often use a competitor's price as a lever to lower the price. Good luck!
Find a good mechanic or do repairs yourself. Almost anyone can replace light bulbs, air filter, change the oil, etc. Don't be influenced by what your neighbors, friends, or family drive. Be your own person. Do your own thing. Best of luck!
By Carol in PA
Do you have any more tips to share? Feel free to post them below.
Things to watch for when buying a new or used vehicle, Engine problems, adding oil every 700 to 800 miles?
As a mechanic I will explain why an engine will burn oil and why it should not burn oil as well as what to do if it is burning oil. Do you have to add oil; before it time to change it, if the answer is yes then your engine is burning oil and it is not normal. The reason an engine is burning oil is it has an internal leak at the Piston Rings, the Valve Guides or the Valve Seals.
I have had a lot of customers tell me the engine is using oil and they are told by their dealership it is normal for an engine to burn a quart of oil every 700 to 800 miles and not to worry about it, just add oil or come in and we will add the oil for you.
Please know if an engine is using oil even a quart every 700 to 800 miles then you are creating smog and our laws do not take kindly to that. We have strict smog laws because of oil burning vehicle on the road and it is hurting our environment.
If your engine has to have oil added between oil changes then you will need one of three things done and it will require a complete engine tear down. If the Valves Guides or Valve Seals are leaking oil past then into the Piston Cylinder then the cylinder heads will have to be removed and that is at least a 14 hour job on most engines today. This repair requires the cylinder head to be removed and reworked and new guides and seals installed.
If the Piston Rings are leaking oil then you will have to have the engine torn down all way and the Pistons will have to be removed so new Piston and Rings can be replaced and that cost almost as much as a re-manufactured engine (used but rebuilt).
I guarantee you if your vehicle is under warranty and the warranty expire you will be told the engine oil burning will have to be fixed. You may say to the service writer I told you I was burning oil every 700 to 800 miles and you told me not to worry about it. Now I am burning two quarts of oil every 1,000 mile and now you are telling me I need a ring job or possible a new engine, so what's up with that?
What should you do if your engine is burning oil and you can't seem to get the help you want, call a lemon law attorney and get a professional lemon law expert? I work with the best in the business and I have seen results for my customers. Some have gotten all their money back or a complete replacement vehicle because of this oil burning and other things that can't seem to be fixed. Don't let a service writer tell you well the first quart of oil to get burned is normal, do you remember when you first purchased the vehicle if anyone told you the engine will need oil added every 700 to 800 miles. I don't think anyone can say they were ever told that until after they paid for the vehicle and then had to go to the shop for an oil light or oil pressure warning coming on.
If life makes you anal, then be anal about taking care of your auto. Maintenance is the strength of keeping it longer on the road. Too much ragging on your auto is a sure bet to lose out too soon.
I used amsoil25000 mile which comes with a filter. Since June my mileage has improved to 34 mpg avg and up to 39mpg avg. I also put injector cleaner in the gas tank once a month. My dodge stratus es has 105000 miles on the odometer and is a 6 cylinder.
When buying new, don't be afraid to haggle, or ask if there are any special promotions. My husband got my car for $5000 off the sticker price and, I get free tires for life by simply taking the car in for oil changes as scheduled. The dealership is $7 more for an oil change than the Jiffy Lube, BUT, they run coupons in the paper, and considering the price of the tires, it is worth it.
Also, husbands farm truck (also bought new) came with rather whimpy tires. At his request, they upgraded the tires at no charge to one more suitable for a 4X4 farm truck. All he did was ask.
He also jokingly whinned he wanted a cap and coffee mug and the salesman put them in the car for us also.
Many new car purchases come with a free auto club for the life of the warrenty. They don't advertise it, so ask or look in the owners manual.
Take little things in that go wrong while the warrenty is still good. So far, at no charge they have replaced my gas cap and a sticking brake pad. Also, the wipers didn't do a good job left streaks) when it was only a few weeks old so they replaced the wiper blades at no charge
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