Auto Club: Used Car Buying Tips for Consumers


(Los Angeles, March 7, 2006) — With new car prices averaging upwards from $27,000, the Automobile Club of Southern California says that quality used cars are an attractive alternative and offers consumers tips on how to get the most for their used car buying dollar.

"As with any major purchase, let the buyer beware," said Auto Club Automotive Services Manager Dave Cavano. "When shopping for any car, used or new, consumers should do all they can to protect themselves and get a great deal."

The Auto Club offers consumers the following tips to get the best deal on a used car:

  • Do your homework. Even if purchasing a used car, consumers should read manufacturer information on web sites and in books and magazines. Learning about features and costs associated with the vehicle in advance helps to protect consumers in the used car-buying process.

  • Get a second opinion. Make sure to obtain an independent mechanic to inspect the vehicle, especially if purchasing through a private party. Ask the private party seller to show you any maintenance records related to the vehicle. Also, be sure to test drive the vehicle yourself to see how it handles.

  • Use online car-buying tools. A Carfax Vehicle History Report is one of the best tools to use prior to a used car purchase and is offered on the Auto Club's web site, The report will provide information about previous commercial title-holders, major body damage and if the vehicle originated from a flooded area of the country. Use reputable pricing services such as Kelley Blue Book, Intellichoice, the North American Dealers Assn. (NADA) or others to verify vehicle prices.

  • Get referrals from trusted sources. Ask family members, friends, or other third-party advisers such as the Auto Club, about reliable makes and reputable used car dealers. The Auto Club has developed a network of reputable new and used car dealerships in their car buying network which offers discounted vehicle prices to its members.

  • Look for a buyer's guide sticker. Required by federal law, dealers may not sell a used vehicle without a sticker displayed. It discloses the terms of the sale, whether it's "as is" versus warranty coverage and how repairs under warranty will be paid.

  • Get pre-approved financing. Determine how much you can afford, and get pre-approved before going to a used car dealer. "If the dealer can offer better financing, that's great. If not, you know you have a competitive loan," said Cavano.

  • Seek a "certified" vehicle, or try buying used vehicles from rental car companies. Effective July 1, 2006 a new California law requires dealers to disclose what their "certified program" means. In most cases, certified is an assurance of a top-quality vehicle that has passed a rigorous mechanical inspection usually with less than 100,000 miles on the odometer. Rental car companies, like Enterprise, generally have a reputable stock of used cars since the vehicles are only driven 1-2 years before being offered for sale to consumers.

  • Consider buying an extended mechanical warranty. An extended mechanical warranty offers consumers protection against unexpected repair bills, especially if purchasing an older used vehicle. Consumers may comparison shop amongst dealers and may be able to purchase a warranty somewhere other than where they purchased the used car.

  • Finalize sale details. Whoever holds the title of the vehicle, actually owns the vehicle. If purchasing from a private party, DMV paperwork for transfer of ownership can be done at any Auto Club office. Get the paperwork and all signatures in order before finalizing the sale and accepting delivery of the used car. Obtain the title, vehicle registration, signed copy of the bill of sale, and owner's manual before driving away with the vehicle.

  • Lemon Law. Unfortunately, there's no blanket lemon law for used vehicles in California, according to Cavano.

The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest AAA affiliate, has been serving members since 1900. Today, the Auto Club's members benefit by the organization's roadside assistance service, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services, and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's web site at