The Investigators: Used Car Challenge - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Used Car Challenge

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By Andy Wise - bio | email

MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - The real challenge of buying a used car is having the guts to demand an inspection of the vehicle before you make the deal.

Your own inspection. By your own mechanic. Off the lot.

"Setting an appointment and having the vehicle off the lot for two or three hours should not be a problem," said Geoff Falk of City Auto in Memphis ( "If it is, there's another red flag."

I'll go as far as to say if a dealer will not allow your own inspection by an independent, ASE-certified (Automotive Service Excellence, mechanic of your choice and at your expense, then you should walk away from the deal.

Finding a good car deal is easier than ever, considering all the resources on the Internet:

* or  Microsoft's wonderful resource offers great advice on shopping specific makes & models. In the case of new cars, this web site will often display the DEALER'S INVOICE on a vehicle -- or what the dealer paid the manufacturer for the car or truck. That can give you even more bargaining power.

* and  These are the web sites of Kelley Blue Book and the National Automobile Dealers Association, respectively. Use these sites to obtain accurate book values of a used car, based on its condition.

It's best to use both. Get values from each, then average the two for a reliable figure.

*  An excellent site for price quotes, tips and consumer forums.

*  The pre-eminent vehicle history database on the Internet. Search a vehicle's title history by VIN number (Vehicle Identification Number) for salvaged titles, accident reports, flood damage, odometer fraud and sales histories. You can pay by the report, by subscription or request a Carfax report from a dealer.

* THE MANUFACTURER'S RECALL DATABASE (Ford, Toyota, etc.). Each of the auto manufacturers' web sites allows buyers to check a VIN # against open recalls. Just Google the manufacturer's site and follow its site map to its recall database. The Internet Auto Guide provides a very simple, drill-down method that will lead you to the actual recall campaign's letter. It includes the description of the potential safety threat of the vehicle.

*  This is the site of the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Search safety recalls and service bulletins by year, make and model. The database collates and publishes every defect complaint made on a vehicle by year, make and model -- even if the agency or the manufacturer did not issue a recall.

After you've settled on a vehicle, demand that independent inspection. Have an ASE-certified professional ready (confirm their certification, check their employer's Better Business Bureau record). Be prepared to pay that professional a fee for the inspection.

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