Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Larry asks: I like buying used cars for personal use, with less than 100k miles. Saw a 2009 Acura TL with about 95k miles, from a private owner. They’re asking 10.5k, but I’ll be offering less. I couldn’t find a review on EP, so i’m asking your thoughts on this year/model.
My reply: Acuras are high-end Hondas and share the brand’s deserved reputation for being exceptionally well-made and durable. The brand – and the model – are not to worry. As with any used car, the thing to worry about is the condition of that particular car. How it was treated by its previous owner; whether it was maintained fastidiously or . . . not. Even the best car (when new) can morph into a Lemon as a used car if it is mistreated.
The tricky thing is figuring out whether it has been mistreated. Particularly if the seller is purposefully deceptive. One tactic dealers use is to “detail” a car, to emphasize how shiny and clean it is – in order to distract the buyer from other things.
In your case, you’re dealing with a private seller – which is (usually) good because private sellers are (usually) not professionals and so aren’t experts at camouflage and deception.
Is the owner of the car the original owner? If yes, plus points. If not, try to establish how many prior owners there were.
Does the owner have service records? Check them against the owner’s manual/recommended service intervals, especially for big ticket items such as replacement of the timing belt.
Drive the car. Not just around the block. Drive it for at least 30 minutes – on local roads, in traffic as well as on the highway. Watch all gauges, such as temperature and oil pressure and volt gauges – look for any erratic/high/low readings. All readings should be steady throughout your drive.
Make sure all warning lights come on at initial start-up and then go off. Especially the “check engine” (emissions) “SRS” (air bags) and “ABS/TCS” lights.
Does the car track straight – including when you apply the brakes? Is there any vibration coming through the steering wheel? Unusual noises?
Assuming all these preliminary things check out ok, the next step – assuming you like the car and are thinking seriously about buying it – is to ask the seller whether he would object to letting you have your mechanic check the car out as a condition of sale. He ought not to object, especially if you have otherwise come to terms and are willing to give him a deposit and agree that the car will change hands provided no major problems are found. But keep the final price subject to further negotiation, as the mechanic may find the car needs minor repairs, such as brake work or suspension work, etc. The cost of these repairs or a portion of their cost can then be deducted from the final sales price.
Those are my caveats – the advice I give to everyone who asks me about used car buying, regardless of the make/model.
The car you’re considering sound good; and it has very low miles for the year. The price quoted is reasonable, too – and I am betting you can haggle that down!
Please keep us posted!
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