Friday, August 8, 2008

Top 5 Used Cars For Your College Freshman

If you're looking for reliable, used transportation for your college-bound child, check the following vehicles first - they are probably your best bets. And they're all under $5,000.

Geo Prizm, '95-'97

Chevrolet Prizm, '98

Honda Civic, '94

Ford Taurus, '97-'98

Subaru Legacy, '96

Here are some general tips when considering a used vehicle:

Before you shop

- Get your financing in place before choosing a car. Knowing exactly what you can afford will save you time.

- Be aware of the current "going rate" of vehicles before purchasing by checking automotive guides available online and in most bookstores and libraries.

- Consider all different outlets for used vehicles such as trade-ins at new car dealerships or private sales, not just secondhand car dealers.

General Advice when inspecting vehicles

Never buy a car without test-driving it yourself. First, make sure you are insured to drive it. Then, if possible, take it on a drive that covers a mixture of conditions: fast highway driving, slow urban driving, and twisting roads. Don't forget to check the reverse gear.

Before making an offer

- After the car passes your personal inspection and test-drive, there are a few more things to bear in mind before making an offer

- Ask to see service and repair history as well as repair receipts. Treat a denial that these receipts exist with suspicion.

- Check whether the mileage on the odometer corresponds with service and repair receipts.

- Check to make sure that the car's 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN for short) matches the car's ID number on the registration document.

- Ask if it is permissible to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic. If it is (and you can afford the added expense), ask the mechanic to carry out a cylinder compression test to assess the condition of the engine and to estimate the cost of any repairs that he/she thinks may be warranted. You can then ask for the cost of these repairs to be deducted from the asking price.

- If you have a car to trade in, don't mention it until you have negotiated a discount for the one you want to buy.

Also, when buying a pre-owned vehicle, it may be worth investing in a warranty. Read the warranty small print very carefully, as some warranties exclude more than they cover.

Happy car shopping!

Ed writes for Plugged In Parents.

Please visit his column at

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