Financial Planning for Generation X & Y Women
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Expert Q&A Archive

When buying a car, how do we determine if it is going to last?
For those of us who dont have a mechanical background, when purchasing a used car, how do we determine if it is going to last?
Gary Silverman, CFP:
expert info »
As with most things that you (and I) are not an expert on, you can research and you can hire. In this case, I'd do both. First, I'd use Consumer Reports info on repair incidence for the particular model & year you are looking at. That can help you avoid those that on average are going to give you problems. That said, every car could be a lemon, so take it to a mechanic you trust to have her/him look it over before you sign the contract. If the seller won't allow this...don't buy the car.
Suzanne Kincaid:
expert info »
No one can say for sure how long a vehicle may last. There are many factors such as how it is maintained, how much it is driven, etc. The best thing you can do before purchasing a used vehicle is to take it to your mechanic or to a shop that can inspect the vehicle for you. This usually costs around $50 and [is] worth it if you don't know [the] history of [the] vehicle. There are also companies that do a history check, which will let you know if the vehicle was ever in a wreck, because all wrecks are reported to the state as public record.
Jeff Kyle:
expert info »
Take the car for a day & have a mechanic you know & trust do an evaluation of the vehicle. They may charge you up to $100, but that one service could save you thousands!
Elizabeth Goldsmith:
expert info »
On a used car, when you do not know the owner (and probably also when you do), hire your own mechanic to check it out before buying. This may run you $50+ depending [on] where you live but [its] definitely worth it for the peace of mind, as well as your finances. Also, knowing your seller is important (as it is when buying fine jewelry). Use extreme caution when buying off the side of the road or from a dealer who has been in the business a short time with only a few cars on the lot. Beware of rust or any evidence of water damage. For safety, steering, tires, and brakes are of prime importance. Check the mileage. Usually a reliable, well-kept used car is one that has been previously leased, which you buy from the dealership. Some consumers seek out rental cars. One would think they would be hard-used, but since they are checked each time they are returned, they have far more maintenance than privately owned cars. Still, a mechanic would be a wise investment.
Anne Delle Donne:
expert info »
I would recommend that you take the used car to a trusted mechanic (or at least an independent mechanic that specializes in the type of car you are buying) to see if there are any glaring issues with the car, and then complete the recommended maintenance to keep the car in working order.
Laura Rogers:
expert info »
There are many variables that contribute to the answer to this question. I recommend Consumer Reports auto guide to get an independent analysis of the performance and value of various vehicles as a starting point.