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<p>We are going to take the plunge and get a van. With my family living so close we 'two car' it quite a bit, and with the new baby on the way, I'd really like to sit in the back with both kiddos if possible.</p>
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<p>We are looking at a van tonight-- and my husband is already in love with it, sight unseen. Anyone have any advice? The only other car purchase we've made was brand new off the lot,  and my dad helped a lot.</p>
 

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<p>Don't even think about buying a used vehicle without having a trusted mechanic check it out for you. It will cost you about $100, but if you learn that the vehicle needs a new engine or transmission or whatever, you've saved yourself a ton.</p>
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<p>I think I am pretty good at buying used cars from private sellers, so I will tell you what I did when I bought my most recent vehicle.</p>
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<p>I decided on several possible vehicles in my price range - make, model and year range. I narrowed it down to two possibilities. I researched the crap out of both.</p>
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<p>I looked at things like cost to maintain, gas mileage, availability of parts, cost to insure and owner reviews. I looked at make/model/year specific message boards that turn up on page 3 or 4 of a search for a particular vehicle, and I lurked and read about common problems and complaints that owners had with that car.</p>
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<p>This enabled me to determine what I was looking for, and know that it was in fact what I wanted. I thought I wanted the safety and reliability of a specific older Volvo - when I got to researching, I realized that there was no way I would be able to afford unexpected repairs on that particular car, because of the limited availability of parts and the high cost of labor because of the specialized tools required to preform repairs on the car.</p>
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<p>So, I decided I wanted another Jeep Cherokee, either a 2000 or 2001 model, with certain features. I kept myself open to a really great deal on a totally different type or model of vehicle, and I put the word out among my family and friends that I was car shopping, and open to anything that was a great deal.</p>
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<p>I searched Craigslist, Autotrader, local newspapers and even eBay. I found several possibilities, went and looked at them, and ruled them out for one reason or another.</p>
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<p>Two and a half months after I began my search, my dad called me at 6 o'clock in the morning telling me he had found the one. It was on CL in a neighboring state, and he had already called the guy to get more info on it. He was asking a few hundred below book, and it was a one owner with all of the maintenance records.</p>
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<p>We drove three hours and I looked at it, drove it, listened to it, etc - it was perfect. I had cash, and I put $500 less than what the man was asking on the hood of the car. He took it, and I got a great deal and a vehicle that meets my needs of being extremely reliable, cheap to maintain and repair, and cheap to insure. I suffer at the gas pump, but I knew that going into it and the pros outweighed the cons.</p>
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<p>So, I agree with the pp about having a mechanic check it out for you (I know some basics, and I know how to ask the right questions, but I also took my father with me as security) but there are more steps that should go into buying a used car than just having it checked out mechanically. You have to make sure you know what you are getting. Make sure you can afford the repairs. Make sure you know what the common problems are that the vehicle has so you can ask the right questions when you look at it. If it usually needs a major repair at a certain mileage, its good to know whether or not the previous owner has yet experienced that problem, or if you need to expect it.</p>
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<p>Know how much it will cost to insure - most insurance companies are able to give you a ballpark estimate over the phone without you having a ton of information on the specific vehicle. Make, model, year and mileage should be all they need to give you an estimate.</p>
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<p>Look at the tires - that's a big one, and I figure you already know that, but I'll say it anyway. A good set of tires for most cars is going to run you about $500, so its good to know if you are going to have to incur that expense immediately, or if it can wait a year or two.</p>
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<p>I know it sounds like a lot of trouble and work, and it really is, but buying a car is a really big deal and a lot of money, so the more you know going into it, the most satisfied you are going to be long term.</p>
 
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