The Bargain Hunter’s Used Car Guide

OPINION

by Matt Benoit

Today, the Bargain Hunter, a “certified” (by which we mean he once spent time in a mental hospital) expert on both bargains and hunting, is here to help you find the used car of your dreams, and hopefully not your nightmares, by pointing you in the right direction. He will, not, however, loan you any cash.

So, it’s time for you to find a used car. The easiest way to go about finding a used car involves finding what are called “classified” ads, which are usually where desperate people go to sell things they don’t want anymore, including their own loved ones:

“In-laws—2 for 1 special! They said they were only staying two weeks, but they’re STILL here! $500 OBO, but willing to throw in Menudo album.”

Classified ads can be found in newspapers, but also on-line at Web sites such as Craigslist. On a side note, I have no idea who the hell Craig is, or what his list looks like.

Anyway, once you have found a car that you are interested in and it does not convey from its photograph that it was a stunt vehicle in Mad Max or is an otherwise heavily-oxidized death cage, it is time to meet the car and owner in-person.

You must now make an appointment to meet, hopefully in broad daylight. Consider bringing along someone who looks like Steven Seagal for “moral” support—just in case.

As a discerning consumer, it is always important to ask the owner questions about the vehicle. These should include at least some of the following:

1)     Does it run?

2)     Is the door supposed to fall off like that?

3)     Has this thing ever been in any high-speed chases?

4)     What are all these stains in the trunk?

5)     Can I paint over the “Pimpmobile” logo? 

Once you are satisfied with your responses, and the person who is answering them does not freak out and try to run away (you can always send Steven Seagal after them if they do), it is time to suggest taking the car for a “test drive.”

This is where you will get to “feel out” your potential wheels—none of which will hopefully shoot off the vehicle when you make that first right-hand turn into traffic—by driving the car around with the owner sitting shotgun.

It has been my experience that you should accelerate the vehicle to at least 100 mph to get an idea of its maneuvering capabilities, as well as properly testing the brakes by slamming on them as hard as possible.

If anything, these exercises should help you determine whether you really want to purchase the car, and may even help you persuade the owner to knock off a few bucks (especially if Steven Seagal, who is sitting in the backseat, has him or her in a head lock).

After this, if you are still confident about the vehicle, you may cut a deal and make your purchase. And even though the Bargain Hunter will not help you with gas money, he would love to know how your used car is treating you.

So drop him an e-mail sometime. By the way, that vomit green AMC Gremlin you have really matches your personality.


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