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.

 

Top Gear Unveils McLaren MP4-12C Spider

McLaren Spider MP4-12C

Attention all you high performance enthusiasts and exotic car aficionados, here’s a chance to evaluate the new 2012 McLaren MP4-12C Spider. This is particularly exciting given the number of these cars in the United States. By the time you're done with this, you'll be calling transport companies for bids on importing one of these.

Unveiling the New Model

Just over a year ago Ron Dennis of McLaren replaced the F1 with the newly designed MP4-12C. Sales had increased to over 1,000 units worldwide. Now Dennis has included a hardtop convertible dubbed the “Spider.”

Jeremey Clarkson of Top Gear was on hand in Geneva for the unveiling. Immediately it becomes evident that this car is the ultimate in eye candy. The aesthetics are such that it generates an “I have to have that” response right out of the box.

The car appears to sit low, but the 20-inch wheels fit perfectly high in the body giving the car ample ground clearance. It has huge intake vents just forward of the rear wheels which are functional because the engine uses two radiators — one on each side of the car.

A retractable spoiler adorns the rear hatch and forward of that is a killer-looking glass engine cover exposing the engine and turbo runners. It looks amazing with the Lambo doors open. And those are just a few of the high points — wait until you see the interior.

Going Inside

The interior is space-aged with a custom dash and console unlike any other car. A horseshoe-shaped panel runs vertically from the console up and around the steering wheel and down the door panel narrowing as it drops down. This contains the air vents on both sides at the top and all the switches as it continues down. Right away you will notice something missing — the gearshift. The MP4-12C has a 7-speed transmission with paddle shifters only. The color combinations accentuate the interior perfectly and the quality of the seats and panels are top notch.

What It Can Do

Now things are getting really interesting. The part that makes this dog hunt is a mid-engine 3.8-liter V8 with double overhead cams, port fuel injection and twin turbochargers. It produces an amazing 592 horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 443 pounds feet of torque. This was confirmed with a dyno test done by Straight Line.

Considering the size of the engine, it is quite an achievement. Anyone who builds racecars knows that all conventional engines have a fixed camshaft. The camshaft must be installed for either low-end torque or high rpm power. It requires a tradeoff. McLaren uses variable camshaft timing, however, to avoid trading anything. The camshafts run at low rpm to build torque. As the engine revs, a mechanism advances the camshaft to increase air and fuel flow.

The engine is also has a dry sump type oiling system. The oil is not contained in an oil pan but in an external oil tank. This allows the engine to sit lower in the cradle, effectively lowering the center of gravity. The MP4-12C goes from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds and back to 0 in a mere 100 feet. Top speed on the Spider is 204 mph, 3 mph slower than the hard top due to the weight. And good thing too – you can't get them everywhere, so if you're not going to use car transport companies, speeds like that will make your drive across the United States a lot more efficient.

Watch Top Gear's Jeremey Clarkson’s amazing video as he pits the McLaren MP4-12C against the Ferrari 458 in a road course. As you can see in the Top Gear segment the McLaren out-handles the Ferrari 458 in the tight course due to its computer-controlled stabilization.

If you purchase a McLaren be sure to use car transport companies that specialize in hauling exotic cars. The McLaren MP4-12C is a car that competes well with the highest profile exotic cars today, and is readily recognizable as the exotic that it is.