First Time Car-Buying Tips

Buying your first car is an exciting step – but it can also be overwhelming and stressful and is never filled with as much uncertainty as it is the first time. If you take the time to do a little research before visiting the dealerships, your first car-buying experience can be a lot less stressful and a lot more fun! Being a good first-time buyer won’t be easy, but if it’s worth doing – and it is – it’s worth doing well. We’ve come up with some tips to help with the process.

Establish a realistic budget. This figure is generally based on what you can afford per month. Look at your cost of living – mortgage or rent payments, food, insurance, social activities. Once those are calculated, the remainder could be spent on a car payment, fuel, car insurance and maintenance.

Visit your credit union to get pre-approved for financing. Before you fall in love with a car you may not be able to afford, go to your local credit union. Their lenders can get you pre-approved for financing at a great rate that fits your lifestyle and budget. You’ll also know exactly how much you can spend, which will give you added negotiating power at the dealership.

Do your research. Informed shoppers are smart shoppers, so gather some information before you start shopping. Resources like Consumer Reports, Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book offer helpful vehicle reviews and pricing information that can help you determine a fair price for the car you want.

Take a test drive. Nothing is more important in your decision process than how you feel behind the wheel. Take at least half an hour on your test drive, while trying stop-and-go, freeway merging and freeway speeds. If the sales person does not have time then take the time to find another dealership.

Bring a wingman or woman to the dealership. It’s always best to work with a partner. They can help you decide what car to buy and what to pay.

Negotiate your price. Price negotiation is probably the most overwhelming part of the car-buying process, but it is important for you to stick to your strategy. If you’ve done your research, you’ll have a good idea whether the dealer’s offer is fair. Keep in mind that the dealer’s first price is rarely their best price, so don’t be afraid to reject the initial offer. If the dealer can’t meet your target price, walk away. Buying a car is a big step and the transaction has to be right for you.

Buyer beware. Before signing the final contract, ask the dealer to explain each item. Dealers have been known to include extra charges for items like “fabric protection,” “paint sealant” or “rust proofing” that may not be necessary. If there are charges you’re not comfortable with, don’t be afraid to point them out.

First-time buyers should also be wary of financing deals that sound too good to be true. Offers like “0% dealer financing” may sound good, but as a first-time buyer you may not qualify for these attractive specials.

Most importantly, enjoy the process. We know the tips referenced above can make buying a car seem daunting, but with low financing rates, and hundred of cars and trucks to choose from, your options are amazing (especially in the first-time buyer category). So take your time as you move through the process and you’ll be astounded with the outcome.

With a little advanced planning, a solid negotiating strategy and appropriate financing, buying your first car can be a fun and a stress-free experience!

Car Buying Tips: Why Does It Make Sense to Buy a Discontinued Car Model?

Often while planning to purchase a car, the right model and the car manufacturing brand become the key deciding factor. Many a times, the research proves to be outdated as some car models become discontinue.

When a car manufacturer stops producing a model because of a number of reasons, it is called a discontinued car model. However, the benefits of buying a discontinued car model outweigh the risks. Buying a car which is no longer in showrooms can mean greater savings. If you are planning to purchase a car, the following points will help you to comprehend why it makes sense to buy a discontinued car model.

1) Discounted Purchase Price

It will have a significantly lower price than a brand new car. One of the benefits of purchasing it is that you get a new car for the price of a used car. As a buyer, you are in a good position to get a favorable deal for a discontinued car model. The dealer needs to move inventory to create space for new cars in demand. Therefore, it becomes easy to negotiate a price that suits your wallet.

2) Shared Spare Parts

Many car buyers hesitate to purchase it due to the potential risk of unavailability of spare parts in the future. You can minimize the risk as many car manufacturers continue producing car parts long after they stop manufacturing a car. Additionally, you can transfer many spare parts of current models to the discontinued model. While purchasing from the manufacturer can become expensive, you can find shared spare parts easily. Thus, if the car requires repairing in the future, you can mend it without any tension.

3) Wide Choice of Selection

It comes at a relatively cheaper price than a new car. The value for money received from buying a discontinued model significantly increases due to cheap pricing. The money spent on purchasing a new car can mean compromising on a few features. However, purchasing it can aid you to step up your choice of selecting a better car. Therefore, you can avail a pool of upgraded features for a lower price.

4) Warranty Period

When you purchase a recently discontinued model, chances are that you eligible for warranty. During the warranty period, the servicing and maintenance of car parts are the responsibility of the original car manufacturer. Many manufacturers produce parts in high volumes to cover the entire warranty period. Thus, you will be able to repair it easily, until it falls under the warranty period. And, a mechanic or an expert can attend to any defect after the warranty period is over.

Purchasing it may bring some risks with it. However, there are many benefits of buying such a car. It can be a lucrative deal for a car buyer looking to make an affordable purchase. So, next time when you want to buy a car, consider a discontinued car model.

Master the Craigslist – Used Car Buying Tips

  • Why buy used?

A used car (be it 1000 miles or 100,000 miles) is much cheaper than that same car when bought brand new off the lot (obviously). Craigslist, aka private party, lets us find these cars for the best price. Read on to learn how to become a master of the used car buying and selling process.

  • Finding the right car

First, find a budget that you are willing to work with. If you do not have the cash, and if the car qualifies, a bank or credit union may offer a loan.

Always refer to KBB (Kelly Blue Book) for the current private party value of the car you are purchasing. This will give you a better idea on how much you should be paying for the car, as well as potential negotiating power to lower the price.

If not familiar with cars, we suggest finding a shop to do a Pre Purchase Inspection. That way you know the mechanical condition and can use it as negotiating power. The thing to remember with all used car buying tips, you must always negotiate the price.

Pro Tip Most people expect to get lowballed, so they set the price much higher than what they would really like to get.

A Note on Smog

If you live in a state that requires a SMOG check, make sure that the seller has a smog certificate included. Verify that the smog was completed within 90 days, otherwise it is not valid for transfer of ownership (CA).

Double check to make sure the registration is current. A lot of times, people sell their car for a cheap price only because they cannot smog it due to a Check Engine Light, or other issues.

  • Setting up for finding the right deals

On the Craigslist page, navigate to your location’s web page, then click Cars and Trucks by Owner. In the search settings, set the range from $0 – (Your Max Limit). I like to add about 20% to my max limit to allow for cars that can be negotiated within the budget.

After you save your search settings, and refresh your page, you will see all the vehicles in your area that are for sale.

Pro Tip Save this Craigslist page to your home screen on your phone and your computer, that way its quick access and you do not have to mess with the settings again.

If you have this on your home screen you will see it more often, reminding you to check the listings and therefore increasing chances of finding the killer deal.

  • Contacting the seller

Remember, these used car buying tips apply for all private party car buying platforms, not just Craigslist. When I sell a car, the biggest thing I hate is when people ask “is the car still available?”.

Be polite, but do not waste anyone’s time. Contact the buyer through phone call when possible. If it’s a smokin’ deal, it will NOT last on Craigslist. The phone is the quickest and most direct method. Do not dilly dally around and have the sweet deal scooped up by a car dealer!

When buying a car, I look at the person selling me the car just as much, if not more, than the car itself. Mainly, it shows me what kind of treatment and service history the car received. If the person was older, spoke intelligently, and looked wealthy, we found that most times the car was in great shape to match.

Most Important Questions to Ask

  • “How long have you had the car?”
  • “What kind of maintenance have you done with the car”
  • “Why are you selling the car?”
  • “Are there any leaks or major mechanical problems?”

Ask these questions over the phone, and try to get a general understanding of the car’s shape before going out to see it, especially if its a long distance.

Saving time is key, you would be surprised how often people say “The car is flawless” on the ad. Asking these questions lets you determine if they are honest.

Set up an appointment to see the car if you feel like the information you’ve gathered about the car matches what you’re looking for.

  • Getting Ready to Meet and Test Drive

When meeting with a seller, I always bring:

  • Scan Tool for Monitors / Codes
  • Powerful Flashlight (I recommend Streamlight flashlights)
  • Pivoting and extendable mirror to check for leaks
  • My Drivers License / ID
  • Cash (I bring cash with me, but leave it in the car. I only do this if the amount is under $3000. Anything past that I just go to the bank with the seller and get them the cashiers check or cash when the deal is done).

Anti-Lemon Used Car Inspection Checklist

Before the meeting

  • Verify the sellers has the necessary paperwork, aka Pink Slip, proof of registration, and smog certificate (if required by state). Although not necessary, print out a copy of the bill of sale form.
  • Use CarFax or Autocheck to run a VIN background on the vehicle. This is key!
  • Set up personal guidelines to the maximum amount willing to spend on the car.
  • Make sure you have the funds ready, or instant access to them in the payment form the seller prefers.
  • Advise the seller you want the car to be COLD for your test drive. We want a cold engine to get a complete analysis. This is a key part to the used car inspection checklist!

At the car

  • Engine Inspection – Use the combination of the pivoting mirror and flashlight mentioned above to peek behind components and around the valve cover, checking for leaks. Inspect everything carefully, pay special attention to the serpentine belt area and leaks around the valve covers.
  • Check for Codes – Connect the scanner and make sure there are no engine codes. Make sure the monitors for smog are all completed – if not, be suspicious.
  • Check the body panels and paint, does it all look even? Is the texture the same everywhere? Look for panels that are a slightly different color or hue, which may indicate a sign of collision that was already repaired.
  • Check all the paperwork before starting the drive – make sure they own the car and that they have a pink slip with their name on it.
  • Check tires. Are they a matching set? Good Tread? Any signs of uneven wear? Could mean bad alignment or an accident in the past that prevents proper alignment.
  • Check brake pad thickness through the wheels if possible.
  • Check maintenance records (see if big service items have been done, like timing belt and water pump if the engine is a timing belt engine)
  • Check condition of oil. Open the oil filler cap and look under for any foamy, milky substances, which MAY indicate sludge or head gasket issues.
  • Upon vehicle start up, check the exhaust pipe for smoke. Listen to the engine for any uneven running aka “misfire” and try to smell for coolant or oil burning off which would indicate a leak.
  • Look over the serpentine belt(s) and all other engine components for any signs of damage, wear, or leaks.
  • Peek under the car to check for leaks, rust, and damage.

During the Test Drive

  • Engine Check – Make sure to use some power and get the engine to a high RPM (don’t redline someone else’s car). Have the windows down and constantly monitor for noise from the engine, as well as the suspension. Note how the vehicle idles, it should be smooth for the most part. Keep checking the instrument cluster for warning messages as well as overheating. Be keen to any burning oil or coolant smells.
  • Brake Test – Come to some stops at different speeds/intensities and try to listen for screeching or grinding noises
  • Alignment Check – During the test drive, while on a somewhat even road, let go of the steering wheel for a few moments and see if the vehicle drifts to one side. Keep in mind, most roads have “road crown” and will slightly cause all cars to drift to the right, but a barely noticeable amount.
  • Transmission Check – Make sure the test drive takes at least 15 minutes, ask the seller for permission first. This will allow the transmission to fully warm up. For automatics, issues could potentially arise online when hot, and not be present when cold. You will feel jerkiness when the auto transmission is malfunctioning. For manuals, do a clutch test by engaging 4th gear at a slow speed and go wide open throttle – see if the clutch slips (the rpms will climb extremely fast like you are in neutral).
  • Wiggle Test – At about 30 mph roll down your windows do a few quick left to right steering wheel maneuvers. Listen to the suspension and chassis – it should not make ANY noises while doing this.
  • Suspension Check – Go over some bumpy roads, and take some angled driveways / turns. Listen for any binding suspension components which will present itself with a loud knock. Also listen for failing wheel bearings by rolling up all your windows and checking for a loud whirring rotational noise.
  • Interior and Features – Finally, check all the features. This means A/C, reverse camera, navigation, etc. Check all window motors by rolling up and down the windows. Make sure everything is working to your desire.

During the Test Drive, DO NOT:

  • Drive the car like you are taking a hot lap around the Nurburgring
  • Go on an extended period test drive unless agreed upon with seller
  • Do anything that would put you or the car at risk, cosmetically or mechanically.

Remember – an honest seller will often also have a car that is in fairly decent shape. Verify that the story they tell you matches the clues you see with the car.

Ask one of the previous questions to see if the answer remains the same this time around. If something doesn’t match up, chances are the seller is hiding something, and I would investigate further.

“Gut Feeling” plays a big role in this game. Be alert to your senses and you will not buy a lemon. This is one of the key used car buying tips.

  • Inspecting the Car

If inspecting yourself, print out and follow our Inspection Checklist

Make sure to find a professional shop to do a Pre Purchase Inspection if you are not mechanically inclined. Anything wrong with the car, especially when NOT told about by the seller, can be potentially used to reduce the selling price or to save you from thousands of dollars in losses.

One of the used car buying tips I want you to take away from this is that any car can be a “good deal” so long as the issues within the car are discovered and price lowered to compensate.

Seal the Deal

First, before anything else, make sure they have the pink slip, as well as the smog certificate. Verify they are the owner by asking to see their ID and matching it to the name on the pink slip.

Make sure the smog certificate states that it has been completed within 90 days, otherwise its invalid for title transfer. Other states may have more paperwork so get familiar with your states requirements.

Reach a price that both parties can agree to.

Do NOT be afraid of throwing out an offer. They just spent their time showing the car, and people hate to lose time. Most times they will take a substantial amount below asking value as long as you show them things they have left out in their ad.

Sellers usually prefer cash money, but if the car is more expensive you should pay with a cashier’s check. Since there is a lot of check fraud going on, sellers are typically sketched out.

Invite them to come to the bank with you while you have the cashier’s check made out. If both seller and buyer have the same banking company, an instant transfer can also be arranged.

After completing the transaction, make sure to save the sellers phone number for any further questions. Also ask them for any sets of spare keys, and service records they have.

Thank you very much for reading

Maintenance Tips: What Makes a Car Overheat and How to Avoid It

The car is a machine that can run for hours without packing up. Sometimes, the car will overheat because of a number of problems and faults. Here is what makes a car overheat and how to avoid it in the future to give you a flawless road trip.

The most common reason why the car overheats is due to extreme heat conditions. Although, this is the most common factor to overheating, it isn’t the only one.

Cooling System Leaks – every engine must have a cooling system. It either has to be air-cooled or it has to use liquids in the cooling system. There may be a time where a leak might be present if a seal hasn’t been installed properly. The leak drops the pressure in the car making less liquid travel throughout the engine.

Block – a collection of debris in the engine is not uncommon but it isn’t normal. Debris could be made up of dust particles that have been collected. There could also be a thermostat that has not opened properly.

Failed Water Pump – this cause of overheating is one of the more common reasons. This car part assists the circulation of the coolant and maintains it. There could be an instance where the bearing could wear down and ultimately fail, stopping the coolant from circulating around the engine.

Coolant Problems – sometimes the coolant hasn’t been concentrated enough. This is usually a problem in the colder climates and cooler weather conditions. If the coolant gets too cold it will become thicker and more gel-like and block the pipes of the cooling system.

To avoid your car from packing up when it’s hot you need to switch the air conditioner off and open your windows at the first sign of overheating. You can turn the heater or blower on to transfer the heat into the car. It might be uncomfortable for you or any passengers you have in the car but your engine won’t give up when doing this.

You can let the car idle and rev it so that the water pump and fans can work faster to cool the engine down.

Don’t use the brakes too much when you are in heavy traffic. The more you stop the harder the engine has to work to move forward again. If you’re not careful you will need brake repairs sooner than necessary. Rather crawl slowly along the road if you can see the traffic flowing slightly.

Tips for Buying Second Hand Engines and Spare Parts Online

Gone are the days when buying second hand engines or car parts for your automobile used to be a sweaty, grimy day’s work. These days, looking for specific used car parts, checking out their condition and history, comparing prices from ten shops, haggling over the right price, and then carrying the heavy bag of the purchased used car parts, all of this can be done from the comfort of your home, in a matter of seconds. Thanks to online shopping websites, buying a second hand engine or a spare part is now easier, more convenient and really economical.

However, with comfort, usually comes the cost. And in this case, the cost involves the chances of being swindled out of a good deal online because of your accidental overlooking of some important detail regarding the purchase. To avoid that, here are some tips that you should go through in order to buy second hand engines and spare parts from online garages, and get the best deal out of them.

Firstly, you should always keep your VIN (Vehicle Identification number), a number which is unique to every vehicle, handy. This will help you find the best spare parts for your vehicle, and is especially helpful if you are buying a second hand engine. Not only can you determine the make, model and the year of manufacture of your car through the VIN, you can also request a VIN check on the second hand engine or any other peculiar used part that you are buying to see its past performance. This will also keep you from landing up with a faulty engine or spare part.

Secondly, before finalising any purchase online, gather all information about the car part that you intend to buy, so that you do not feel lost in the technical description of the same on the website and end up buying the wrong item for lack of technical knowledge.

Thirdly, Always ask for a warranty coverage for the second hand engine or the spare part you are buying. In online transactions of spare parts, the sellers are bound to give you a minimum warranty coverage even in case of second hand parts. Also ask for their return policy document, just in case. That’ll make sure you get your due, in case you are not satisfied with the part you’ve received.

Lastly, go through the fine lines very carefully while making any such purchase, be it a second hand engine or any other spare part. Do not overlook any detail in the purchase brochure to get the best deal on the used spare part you buy. And then, just click away to glory!