AUTOS: What to know before buying a used vehicle

Stephanie Sessions

It’s important to be cautious when buying a car.

Valerie Prescher, senior in biology, has already owned and purchased three automobiles since she was 16.

Prescher’s first taste of freedom was an old Jeep that lasted until she was 20.

The reliability made her comfortable enough to go back to another Jeep after her old one finally gave out.

“Well, it was a ’93 Jeep and it had 100,000 miles, which is really, really rare and really good,” Prescher said.

The only problem was the Jeep she bought only lasted a few months.

“I paid $3,000 for the Jeep and the salesman failed to mention the engine was really bad,” Prescher said. “The car only lasted four months. I bought it at a used car lot. He just made it seem like a very dependable vehicle and it obviously wasn’t.”

Anyone even thinking about buying a car should take note of the mistakes Prescher made and know the ins and outs of how to shop for a car to save money and time without getting scammed.

When searching for autos and test ratings, David Ohlson, sales associate at Wilson Cadillac Toyota Scion, 2212 S. Duff Ave., said customers should write down, in order, what is important to them, whether it is safety, price range or performance.

Research takes time to know what vehicles have the best safety features, crash test results, fuel economy, warranties, operating costs, theft rates, general features and reliability.

Erica Mienke, junior in management, said she looked up the crash test ratings for her car by using Google and

“I did a lot of research this time and it was helpful once I went to the dealership. I finally decided to take out a loan for a car that had a warranty that would actually last longer,” Prescher said.

Even though Prescher had an idea of what to get this time around, a budget had to be met in order to be able to finance her car.

“Do a budget. Factor what debts, loans you have and when you have to start paying them off. You should figure out the cost of monthly living expenses,” said Guy Willey of Willey Auto Group, 123 Airport Road.

Once a budget is put into action, it is easier for everyone involved to know what price range should be considered.

“I like the informed customers that know their needs and what their budget is,” Ohlson said.

There probably isn’t much money left over for a majority of recent college graduates to buy a new 2008 BMW or Mercedes, but there are still many options that are less expensive and look just as good.

“When I went to buy my new car at Jordan Nissan, I knew exactly what I wanted and what I could afford. I went towards the end of the year when everyone has to make quota,” said Abbey Rhodes, of Des Moines.

The end of the model year is usually around August or September when dealerships start to market the familiar “model year” sales.

“I went toward the end of summer because I had more time and I saved money from working,” Mienke said.

The end of a current model is good for the consumer because it usually means thousands of dollars may be knocked off the price of an automobile.

If a model becomes discontinued, prices may drop even further.

The end of the calendar is a great time to buy a new car because dealers are trying to hit specific quotas and end the year with strong sales.

“I went at the end of December right before January. My dad went with me to talk them down and we knocked a $1,000 off the price,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes also said she looked online at the different offers and packages to know what the prices would be beforehand.

“Have a range, be upfront. If you don’t like a car we are showing, you tell us. Our job is to help,” Willey said.

Ohlson said customers should notice how it feels, and if it is a pre-owned vehicle, if there are any odd noises that need to be addressed.

The best thing to do if buying a used car is to take it to a dependable mechanic to have it checked.

“Once I was more serious about the car, I took it to my mechanic on the test drive,” Mienke said.