Buying a used car can be a challenge, and there are 4 big mistakes that may end up costing more money in the long run. Buying a used car over a new one can save a lot of money by  letting someone else take the first few years of depreciation, but it would be a shame to find the car that was supposed to save you money, cost more than you thought.

Don’t be curb stoned.


used car buying looking through the driver side of the windshield

“Curb Stoning” is the practice of selling a car from the side of the road or a parking lot.

“Curb stoning’ is the term used to describe the practice of selling a car from the side of the road or a parking lot. Some legitimate individuals sell their personal cars this way, but in most cases,  are being sold by unlicensed dealers.

Curbstone sellers are trying to avoid the regulations on car sales. They don’t want to reveal known faults or defects, have the paperwork looked at too closely or leave a trail for liability. The cars they are selling are often salvage yard finds that have had minimum repairs made. It is common for Curbstone cars to have safety or emission systems bypassed rather than repaired.
In addition, Curbstone vehicles often have salvage titles that we talk more about that next.

Know the title


Car title styles vary by state, but all share common features. There are clear titles, titles with liens and salvage or total loss titles. If you are buying your new or used car from a reputable dealer, this won’t pose a problem. However, if you are buying from an individual, it can be a nightmare.

Before you spend a lot of time checking out a car, road testing it, and negotiating the deal, ask the seller about the title. If it is a clear title with no lien listed on it and in their name, you are good to go. If not, you may want to move on to another seller. Some of the red flags to be mindful of in this case may include;

The title has a lien against it.

This means the lien will have to be satisfied before you can transfer the title to your name. If you are financing the purchase, the lien can be easily cleared up at your lender. When you are paying cash for the vehicle you will have to go to their lender’s office to accomplish this.

judge's hammer next to stacked legal books for used car buying

Know Your Cars Title

The seller’s name may not be on the title.

If you are presented with a title that is not in the seller’s name, there may be a legitimate reason. A parent may be selling a car for a child. A friend for someone who doesn’t want to go through the hassle, or a name may have changed by marriage. The seller, in this case, should provide a notarized power of attorney to sell the vehicle. This authorizes them to sign for the actual used car owner. If this is the case, make a copy for your records of all identifications, and documents provided for this transaction.

If the seller is unable to provide the power of attorney, the car may be on an open title.

An open title is when someone buys a car and never transfers the title to their name. This can happen for a lot of reasons, but usually because the car was bought for resale by someone not licensed to deal in cars and they kept the title open so they would not have to pay the taxes due on the sale. The real problem here is you may end up with a car you cannot register.

The car may have a salvage title.

A salvage title is issued when a car is deemed a total loss by an insurance company and then put back in service. There are a lot of reasons for a total loss designation but in short, the insurance company determined the cost to repair exceeded it’s worth. It is important to know why the car was designated a total loss, what was done to repair it and how well those repairs were performed.

A total loss, salvage titled car is not for most people. If you are the average motorist, it is best to avoid any recycled  or salvaged car. The resale value is significantly below an undamaged car.

Counterfeit titles.

Just like money, driver’s licenses or checks, a title can be printed up by a crook. If you have any reason to feel uncomfortable, walk away.

Don’t buy an old luxury car.


Looking at a used white Cadillac Escalade SUV from the driver side wheel

Used luxury vehicles typically require more TLC

High-end luxury cars are expensive to maintain and repair. If the car is still under factory warranty, it is probably a safe bet. But if it is now in the hands of the third owner, it should be avoided. The primary reason for buying a used car is to save money. Buying an old luxury car that is going to require costly upkeep may be more trouble than it’s worth. The exception would be when the seller can document meticulous attention to maintenance, and the car is in excellent condition.

Get a pre-purchase inspection.


A seller who has honestly present the car to you should be willing to cooperate in arranging a pre-purchase inspection. Any car other than a certified pre-owned model should have a thorough checkup before buying. Most independent repair shops offer this service at a reasonable price. It can help you avoid buying a headache. It’s not uncommon however, that the current owner may not be aware of some issues that the mechanic uncovers.

mechanic inspecting a used car before buying

Get a professional car inspection before you buy

A mechanic’s pre-purchase inspection will include things like checking the tires, brakes, battery, charging system, air conditioning, suspension, computers, and all the other normal wear items. Many issues are undetectable It should also include an intensive road test by a professional mechanic who can evaluate the overall performance of the vehicle. A fault in any of these components could be an expensive addition to the cost of the car. Once completed, the evaluation can be used in further negotiations in getting a better sale price.

Final Thoughts.

Buy with your brain and avoid impulse buying when shopping for a new or used car. It helps to know the things you need in a newer vehicle. Make a list of the features that you want on the car you plan to buy and shop until you find as many of them as possible. Getting the things you want in a car purchase will add to the long term satisfaction of owning it. Buying a used car because you like the color or wheels, or radio is not a good way to assure success.