One important rule of thumb, especially for people who aren’t mechanically inclined, is to have a professional give the car a thorough inspection before you buy it.
No matter how good you think you are at judging cars, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion before making a major purchase.
There are also lots of things that can go wrong in a car without showing obvious signs.
Automatic transmissions, for example, are one of the most complicated parts of a car, which means they can be extremely expensive to repair or replace. They can also sometimes break with little warning, or with symptoms so minor that it takes a trained ear to detect them.
That’s one of many reasons a professional mechanic should look at the car before you make a purchase.
Chances are the mechanic is going to find something that needs attention on the vehicle. Few cars are totally problem-free.
The important thing is knowing the precise condition of the car before going back to the negotiating table.
If the mechanic finds a major problem, you may want to walk away from the car. But if it’s a minor issue — say, the car will need a brake job within the next 5,000 miles — you might be able to get the seller to knock an extra $100 off the price.
No matter what, having a professional’s advice will put you in a much more comfortable position as a buyer.