5 Tips for Buying a Used Car

Alfa Romeo Spider
Alfa Romeo Spider

Car buying is on a new upswing.  Reuters recently reported that overall car buying (new and used) has risen drastically in the past 4 years.  Car sales rose 13 percent to 1,188,865 cars and light trucks sold during the month of September at U.S. auto dealerships.  That was the best month since March 2008, just after the start of the recession and this shows promise for the auto industry.

The upswing is mainly due to rising consumer confidence, making people feel safer to open their wallets on car purchases.  However, many Americans are still feeling the tight with their money in this economy as it is still moving at a snail's pace.  That's why more people are considering used cars over new cars these days.  If you are one of these people here are “5 Tips for Buying a Used Car.”

Preparation is Key

Preparation is crucial in a used car buying search. Spending time researching different models and trims can help you get a better price and know what car fits your needs. The internet offers a wealth of information about used cars – learn about the different models, options, reliability, prices, etc.  The more you know the better, the better prepared you are to find the car you want and get a good deal.

Check Your Credit

If you're a used car buyer with potential credit issues who might find it difficult in getting approved for a loan, again turn to the internet to better educate yourself. Better yet, you should probably know your credit rating in advance, so the entire discussion about financing and credit isn't a surprise to you.

I recommend you look for a reputable credit union that will offer great financing for pre-owned and used vehicles at reasonable rates.  Credit unions offer much better financing than what you will find at a bank all with personalized service.  Credit unions actually offer the same loan rates on new cars as used cars, making them straightforward and easy to understand.  They can also help you improve your credit and some even offer classes on financial literary.

Do the Numbers

When seeking a used car, know what your budget is and where it will be a year from now. Don’t shop for a cool luxury convertible car if you’re living on a shoestring budget, try to find a reasonable and sensible small car that will be easy and not expensive to maintain and insure.

Most used car buyers try to manage a down payment of about 20 percent, while financing the rest. But don't let that get away from you either.  I don't recommending financing a car for more than four years (48 months), and it is a good idea to keep your monthly payment lower than 10 percent of your total income.

You can find great tools online to figure out what a reasonable monthly car payment is for you.  It's best to pay for the car as much upfront as you can but most will need to borrow a little money.

Get the Car Checked

You NEED to get any used car you are considering buying checked and inspected by a reputable independent mechanic BEFORE you buy it.  Unless you are a gearhead, like me, and know what to look for in used cars it's not a good idea to just take a dealership or individuals word on the history of a car.

Did you know that there is no law requiring body shops to report work they have done on vehicles they work on?  A friend's dad is master painter and bodyman and he can make any vehicle that has been in a serious accident look new again.  Meaning Carfax reports can be completely clean, but not tell the whole story about the car.

Eyes that know what to look for will be able to see if a car has been in an accident or if it needs any mechanical fixed to be road-worthy.  Having a used car checked out before you buy it is very important.

Watch for Trade Ins

Most used car dealers will ask if you're trading in a car for the new/used car you've got your eye on.  You want to be careful about talking with the dealership about this.  Trade-in talk shouldn't enter into the negotiation process in my opinion.  Smart used car buyers consider trade-in cars as a separate transaction, and as such don't mention a trade-in factor into the conversation until the end.  Also you will likely get more for your used car if you sold it online via Craigslist or other local ad listing service or website.  Did you know that dealerships typically make a killing on used car trade-ins and not much on selling new cars?  One of dealerships dirty little secrets!  To be sure you are getting a good deal utilize sites like ClearBook.com which assess the value of your used car for the approximate trade-in value.  You will find you typically won't get a good deal.

So don't fret if you are a first-time used car buyer or don't have the best credit rating in the world.  There are plenty of great tools to help you and you should always be looking for opportunities to buy if you are in the market for a new car.  Ask friends, family, and neighbors if they know of any good used cars for sale.  If you have any questions about buying a used car please leave a comment below.

 

BumpShox Protects Front Bumpers from Bad Drivers

BumpShox, Front Bumper Protection!

Do you hate it when bad drivers hit your bumper? Sooo annoying… especially if it's a brand new car!

BumpShox might be your solution. The BumpShox bumper protector is a relatively new foam-based automotive product that looks like a big oversized license plate holder (well it is), but it is a bumper protector. It fits in place of any standard license plate and can be installed easily on virtually any car.

I have been testing the BumpShox for awhile, on several vehicles. I liked using the BumpShox on all of our cars (a 2002 Toyota Camry, 1996 Honda Accord.) Not that it really adds to the look of the Camry or Accord, but it sure is a conversation starter when people notice it, point, and ask “Hey, what's that?”

However, one of the points of the The BumpShox is it's unobtrusive, small, and does not detract too much from the look of the car, at least when compared to other bumper protectors. Typically other bumper protectors or bumper guards will cover the whole bumper and are pretty damn ugly. What's the point of owning a Mustang if you can't enjoy the beautiful lines?

For the most part the BumpShox is not that noticeable. Once you get used to it, it's sort of a fun little addition to your car.

On one of my roadtrips, I parked my Accord in a large parking lot with a few cars. You would assume there was little use for a BumpShox in this situation. When I came out of the store, to my surprise someone had parked a tad to close to my car! The BumpShox was cushioning my car's bumper against a hideous Dodge Caliber.  (Who drives a Caliber anyway?)  I was quite pleased with this and the BumpShox saved me a a weekend of DIY bodywork, which probably would have come out with bad results.

So for protecting your front bumper against stupid and bad drivers, even in large parking lots, the BumpShox can work well.

Where the BumpShox supposedly really shines is in tight parallel parking spaces in cities. The only issue is that it is only going to protect your bumper when you are in the space or parking and moving forward to reposition your car.

Because the BumpShox is unobtrusive and small it won't protect the majority of your bumper at various angles when parking. Only slow front end taps will the foam cushion work.

For complete bumper protection, the BumpShox is not necessarily ideal. Of course larger bumper protectors that cover your whole bumper cost $150+. That's a lot to shell out! If you are tired of having bad drivers hit your beautiful bumper, the $35 bucks it costs to buy a BumpShox is probably a good investment. If you want to buy two, it will cost $60.

I can't guarantee that the BumpShox will work in all situations. For light front-end taps and bumper protection from bad drivers who can't park, even in a large parking lot, it did it's job well on my Accord. That's good enough for me! 🙂

3M Headlight Restoration Kit Review

In my last post I suggested using Toothpaste to Restore Cloudy Headlights. It will work…. if you spend the whole day doing it!

To save yourself time and sanity I'd suggest buying a 3M Headlight Restoration Kit. These kits range in price from $15-20, and generally work well.  For restoring the headlights on my Mom's '97 Chrysler Town & Country I bought the 3M Headlight Restoration Kit. It took me about 4 hours to do it properly.  The process is basically what a body shop would do to restore and refinish headlights.  Except you use a drill and save a ton of money since you DIY!

Here are Pictures of the Before and After on my Mom's '97 Chrysler Van.

BEFORE
AFTER

I did this on March 6th, 2010. That was about 2 months ago, and the headlights still look pretty good. The headlights were so dim nobody wanted to drive the Town & Country at night, but now that's not a problem.  (Well I don't want to drive it because it's van but that is obviously a separate issue.)

Restoring your headlights is extremely beneficial for your safety and other drivers out on the road.  Not only did this improve the appearance of the van, but the ability to see the road at night and in bad weather greatly improved and other people will be able to see the van better.

It's possible the headlights will get cloudy again, meaning I might have to buy another headlight restoration kit and redo this.  If you want to avoid this in the future I would recommend going down to your local auto parts store and buying a UV clearcoat spray in a can.  Headlights that come from the factory have a UV clearcoat protection on them, which helps protect from UV damage and debris.  Generally when the UV clearcoat wears off is when you start to get cloudy, hazy, and yellowed headlights.

The 3M Headlight Restoration Kit doesn't have any sort of clearcoat spray that comes with the kit.  Some kits, like the Slyvania Headlight Restoration Kit, come with a UV clearcoat application.  I should put a protective UV coating on the van's headlights, to ensure I don't need to refinish the headlights again.  I would recommend you do the same if buy the 3M kit.

Here are some tips for the 3M kit:

  • I was oversanding with the 600 grit sandpaper. The paper would gum up, before I realized it. It probably would have been helpful to wet the 600 grit paper a little bit every so often.
  • You get only 1 piece of 3000 grit sandpaper. It would have been helpful to have 2 pieces in my opinion. I did one headlight then I moved onto the other one, but by then the paper was used up. It took me forever to do the other headlight. I would suggest switching back and forth on each side if you are headlights are really cloudy, hazy, or yellowed.
  • You must Tape-up around your Headlights! I probably would have done a lot of damage to the paint if I didn't! I just used blue Painters Tape you can buy at any local hardware store, which worked fine.
  • I would suggest using a Corded Drill, which is what I used. If you try to use a Battery Powered Drill, I'm sure the battery will run out before you finish and you will be waiting for the batteries to charge.
  • As the video says in the beginning you definitely should have a Spray Bottle and some microfiber towels.
I hope this helps people restore their own Headlights. If you have seriously cloudy, hazy, or yellowed headlights keep in mind the 3M kit probably will not work.  You might need to get them refinished and restored at a body shop.  However, it is worth it to at least try the 3M kit first since it's not that expensive.  I'd imagine your headlights will still look a little bit better.
If you have any questions about using the kit please leave a comment below.