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How to buy (and not buy) a used car

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Used car sales tactics have been the butt of jokes for years, and chances are you’ve probably heard some horror stories. But don’t let that stop you from buying a used car. Consumer Reports has some great tips to help protect you from buying a dud and some of these tips can also come in handy if you’re buying a new car.

Do your research. Look for reliability ratings from sources like Consumer Reports’ used car marketplace.

Find the true value of the car you want by checking condition, mileage, age, and equipment levels. But don’t rely on dealers for that information. Get a car report through CarFax or Autocheck - online tools which can help alert you to possible odometer fraud or damage - or if a rebuilt or salvage title was ever issued.

To make sure no fraud or crime is associated with the car - run the VIN through the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

And don’t forget to check for recalls. Safercar.gov or Consumer Reports.org/car-recalls will tell you if there are any safety-related defects or problems.

Once you’ve done your homework, state your price. If the seller won’t budge, don’t be afraid to walk away. You’ll see how quickly you’ll be given a price you can live with.

Before you sign the contract, take the car to a certified mechanic - not just an oil change shop. It’s worth shelling out the $100 or so it’ll cost for an inspection. Even if you're considering a "certified" pre-owned vehicle- pay for a full, independent inspection. And pay close attention to the tires. Some used cars can tend to have tires with excessive wear.

And if the car needs repairs after you get it inspected, used that information to negotiate a better price.Consumer Reports says don’t be afraid to demand the seller deduct the price of repairs from your offer.

A thorough inspection can also tell you if the car has previously been in a flood, or has so many problems you should simply walk away.

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