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Buying a Used Car & Pre-Purchase Inspection

The Motor Works

Buying a Used Car

Many of us prefer to buy used cars as opposed to new cars. A used car is less expensive, of course. And the cost of depreciation with a new car is very expensive and reduces the value of a vehicle by 50% in the first three years. If you buy a $40,000 new car it will be worth $20,000 after three years.

You don't want this

You want to feel like this after buying that used car


So how new a used car are you planning to buy?  Let's look at two ages of vehicle: five years old or newer or six years old and older.

Five Years Old or Newer:  Pricing and buying a vehicle five years old or newer is pretty simple. You can go to Kelly Blue Book (,, or and get a good idea of what those cars are selling for. Private sellers are going to sell the same car for less than a dealer. When you buy from a private seller you have an opportunity to talk to the car's owner and determine what kind of care the vehicle had. There will typically be some service history documentation to look at and the seller can tell you about his ownership experience. If the seller gives you a creepy feeling, walk away. When you buy a used car from a new car dealer you will pay more; however, he may offer some kind of extended warranty in the price. Dealers also sell CPO or Certified Pre-Owned vehicles. CPOs are priced even higher but include an extended warranty. In the case of a used vehicle that is not CPO, the dealer will have little or no knowledge of the previous owner and seldom if ever offers any service history with the vehicle. A very large percentage of used cars sold by the dealer are bought at auction.

Six Years Old or Older:  Now things get more complicated. I like to go to and see the range of asking prices. I will adjust the search radius and see vehicles in our area. But the problem with older cars is that some have had excellent care and others, well, not so much. We all know someone who can break an anvil in a rubber room. We all know people who never change the oil in their cars and never wash behind their ears. The problem with older used cars is that in 6 or 7 years, in 100,000 miles, a car could have had excellent care and be a great used car to buy. However, it might also have belonged to the anvil/rubber room guy and could become your next nightmare. And when it comes to prices, the range of prices for older cars is going to vary dramatically. If the car's really cheap, there's probably a reason for that. And if the car is at the top of its price range, guess what? There's probably a reason for that too. I recommend that you not dismiss the car at the top of its price range. A well-maintained, regularly-serviced car that costs more will still be a better investment than the less expensive car that needs a lot of work.

Whatever you decide to buy, always run a Carfax title search. This will verify that the car has a "clean" title, meaning that it is NOT a "salvage vehicle. And be sure to drive lots of cars before you settle on one. And when you finally find The One, have us do a Pre-Purchase Inspection by texting us at 336-895-1506 to schedule an appointment.

Pre-Purchase Inspections

Thinking about buying a used European vehicle? Great! Let The Motor Works take the mystery out of buying that used car. Our experts can perform a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) that will provide the peace of mind that you're about to purchase a good used vehicle. Please recognize that all used cars need some service or repairs. And some used cars have fatal flaws that can't be repaired at any price. A PPI can uncover these problems and other issues that could spoil the joy of ownership. And if we give the car a "thumbs up", we'll provide all the information you need to negotiate a better deal.

The PPI begins with a test drive at which time we check the performance, handling, drivability, and accessories. Once in the shop, we put the car on a lift and inspect the underbody and suspension for evidence of any previous collision repairs. We inspect the engine and drivetrain and all available maintenance records. We also test the vehicle's computers for diagnostic fault codes.

We're always happy to provide some guidance on determining the fair market value. Taking our PPI report, along with an estimate of repairs, you'll be well-equipped to make an informed decision and possible offer on the vehicle you're considering. Schedule a Pre-Purchase Inspection by texting us at 336-895-1506.

Read about our caution on buying a Flood Car ... 

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