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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Do’s, Don’ts, Never’s and Not Recommended’s of Trading and Buying Cars

This is a post about trading and buying a car and the cautions you should take. I am always adding to this page, so check back every so often.

Do’s
- Always ask to see the sellers drivers license. Some people claim the car is theirs, but it could be stolen. Make sure the registration card is current and in the sellers name.
- Before you trade or buy a car, check how much the price is going to be at the DMV. There is a page on the CA DMV’s website to calculate how much it’s going to cost to put it in your name and how much the tags will be if needed soon. Click here for CA DMV used vehicle purchase fee calculator.
- Before you trade or buy a car, check the smog history. You will need the license plate or vin number. Click here to visit the Bureau of Automotive Repair’s Smog Test History.
- Always test drive the car before you trade or buy it. Make sure you get through all the gears and that everything works (power steering, ac/heater, horn, blinkers, lights, make sure it warms up and does not overheat, etc)
- Always ask for all previous paperwork on the car (smog, tune ups, oil changes etc)
- Always look under the hood. If you see a lot of greasy gunk, it probably has been leaking oil for some time. Check for cracked hoses and leaks under the car as it is running. If the engine does not sound steady, or sounds hesitant there is probably a mechanical problem.
- Always take time to make a decision. If you are unsure of making the trade or purchase, take a day or two to think it over.
- Always bring a mechanically inclined friend or family member to the trade that can determine if the car needs repairs or whether it is worth trading or buying.
- Always finish all the paperwork at the trade or purchase. Get copies of phone numbers, addresses, bills of sales and make sure you do the release of liability at a local DMV office if you traded.

DON’T believe everything that you hear. People lie.

Never’s
Never trade or buy a car at night or after dark. A car may look nice in the night but in the morning you go outside and think “WTH DID I DO???”
Never trade or buy a car that has a temp tag. That’s a big no-no. It may mean the car did not pass smog, even if they say it’s for something else. If you really want the car, have the seller take care of the temp tag first.
Never trade or buy a car without paperwork, especially the pink slip!
Never buy a car from an independent car salesman.

It is not recommended:
- To trade or buy a car that has a salvage title. Salvage title means it has been in a wreck or stolen and the car was considered salvaged by the insurance company and the owners fixed the problems and body damage, supposedly. Sometimes the owner only has enough money to replace the cosmetic damage and not the internal damage.
- To trade or buy a car on a deal that sounds too-good-to-be-true. Most of the time, it is too good to be true. There are a lot of problems with cars mechanically, that can be easily hidden.
- To trade or buy a car that has high miles. You should steer clear of cars over 180,000 miles. Even if someone says it’s only freeway miles, they cannot prove it. Unless someone has the paperwork to prove the engine has fewer miles than it actually says, don’t do it.
- To trade or buy a car with out-of-state license plates. The laws outside California are different for vehicles. Some cars don’t need to be smogged, so the car may have NEVER been tested before. Also, out-of-state cars take a lot of extra cash to get transferred to California plates. Best to pass it up.
- To fill out release of liability online at the DMV website. It is always best to go to the DMV in person and get a stamped copy of your release of liability. You can print a copy of the release of liability here: Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability

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