Buying a second hand car can help you save money on the original purchase price, the insurance and the personal property taxes. But, you need to be careful or you could end up with a lemon.
The lemon law is there to protect customers in the U.S. Basically, the law states that you can return a used vehicle for a reasonable price within a specific period of time. Dealerships typically have forms explaining the details of their return policies.
If you have a trusted mechanic, it would be wise to take any pre-owned vehicle in to have it checked before you buy. The current owners should be willing to allow that.
When you are buying from a dealer, you can look for "Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles" or CPOs. A CPO has already been through a complete inspection. That does not necessarily mean that you can forego your mechanic's inspection. But, your chances of getting a vehicle that runs well are better. Some dealerships offer an extended warranty on their CPOs. The warranty typically covers major components like the engine and transmission.
When you are shopping for second hand cars, it's always a good idea to look for one that has less than 50,000 miles on the odometer. In years past, disreputable dealers would turn back the odometer to hide the actual mileage. Tampering with the odometer is illegal today, so you can be relatively certain that the mileage appearing on the odometer is accurate.
You can easily get the history of a specific vehicle over the internet. CARFAX is one source for that kind of information. There are other sites on the internet that provide the information for free. You simply type in the VIN number of the automobile.
The VIN number is usually located beneath the windshield on the driver's side of the car. You can find out whether or not the vehicle has ever been in a major accident by typing in the VIN.
Since there are thousands of second hand cars to choose from, you may have trouble deciding on a make and model. Companies like Consumer Reports provide information about different makes. You can learn about recalls and problems experienced by other owners.
Finally, you should always ask the owner why they are selling the vehicle. If you are buying from a dealership, the previous owner probably just decided to trade his old car in for a new one. If you are buying from an individual, you need an honest answer about why they decided to sell.
You can find a satisfactory second hand car if you take your time and do a little research. That's really all it takes.