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Updated: 3/28/2003 1:53 pm
If you're considering buying a used car, inspect the car in daylight and in good weather. Bring someone you trust along to help you make a thorough appraisal. Once you've decided to buy the car, have a trusted, independent mechanic of your choice thoroughly inspect it before you agree to the purchase. Take the car to a reliable repair shop or auto diagnostic center. You'll have to pay for this service, but the money you invest up front may save you many more dollars down the road. Ask for a written estimate of the costs to repair any problems the mechanic finds, and use that estimate as a bargaining chip when you make your offer for the car. In some states, an official state inspection may be legally required. Contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles to find out. If you're buying a new car, before you drive away from the dealership, take a few minutes to carefully inspect it. Check the exterior of the car for any damage, such as 'dings' or scratches. Make sure the spare tire and equipment are where they should be, and that the tire is inflated to manufacturer specifications. All hubcaps and body moldings should be in place, and all electrical items should function properly. Check the Vehicle Identification Number on the car to ensure that it matches the one on the contract. You should also be certain that you've been given the owner's manual, warranty forms, and all legal documents. Ask your salesperson to show you how to operate all the car's accessories, such as interior and exterior lights, windshield wipers, seat adjustments, gas cap, rear-view mirrors, and any other mechanical functions you're not sure of.

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