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Used Cars/What should I look for when test driving plus haggling & warranty question for my first vehicle?


I am in the market for my first vehicle. So far in 4 months I haven't had much luck, (examples) one dealership tried to sell me a rusted out SUV and a second tried to sell me an SUV with an engine pretty much held together by electrical tape, literally. I am a female in my early 20's and I continually have sales people trying to sell me vehicles like that since they think I'm clueless when it comes to cars but I know enough to tell if there's issues. I have a few questions since I've found another possible SUV. The truck is a 2011 Ford Escape XLT with almost 95,000 miles with an asking price of $13,500 (Tax,Tag,Title plus other fees NOT included in that price) and clean Carfax. I know it has an excessive amount of miles compared to its year but it's been on their lot since February which is why I'm hoping to get a better deal. It will be very 1st car so I was hoping to get some advice because I don't want to end up overpaying for it and because I don't want to end up with a truck that needs a bunch of repairs. I am disabled and have a limited income so I can't afford to spend $200, $300 or more a month to repair it.

When I go to see and test drive it, what should I look for that would mean I shouldn't buy it?

How low should my first offer be & how high do you think I should go in price? I was thinking $9,000 or $9,500 to start and $11,000 max.

Should I ask for a warranty to be included or pay to buy a warranty if they don't automatically offer one? I planned to ask for one to be included due to the sales guy I spoke to on the phone said that it had a "small" oil leak that they repaired?

Payment will be a bank check. My mom took out the loan in her name and she'll have the check in hand when we go to see and test drive.

I know I've asked quite a few questions so I genuinely appreciate your help. It's only my mom and I and she doesn't do well with haggling so I HAVE to do it but I want to be taken seriously with my offers.

2011 Ford Escape 4x4 XLT 6 Cyl
2011 Ford Escape 4x4 X  
Hi Teresa thanks for writing you ask all very good questions... Let's see if we can come up with equally good answers for you.

First of all you need to know that time and patience are your friend... You've waited this long what's another day or two going to matter right?

I personally like Ford escapes him and the one you've chosen does have higher than average miles an fact about 35,000 extra miles to be exact over the mileage everybody thinks it should have... However as you see or will see there is a 2933.00 reduction in the book value of this car for the extra miles which is hopefully also reflected in the price.

Here are some answers to your questions along with some advice points I'd like to make:

1. Having the vehicle inspected by a mechanic is a great idea and well worth the $50-$75 or cost you... There are even mobile mechanics in most cities will drive to your car and do the inspection on-site... I recommend it especially if you aren't able to absorb an expensive fix right out of the gate. One reason vehicles stay unsold on a dealer's lot is because there something about it that makes it sale proof... Maybe it's the color maybe there's no air-conditioning maybe it smells like cat Pee there's always something that you look you will probably find it.

2. As far as service contracts on used vehicles I would never ever buy one from the dealer unless he was willing to discount it substantially like almost 50%. Why is that? It's because that's what you can buy it for at your local credit union or wherever your mom is financing the vehicle. The warranties are all pretty much the same or least have most of the same features there's a huge difference though in cost. I know my finance managers like to hold at least $1000 in profit on every service contract they sell. Do yourself a favor and save the money and buy that your credit union and save yourself the thousand bucks. Do I think you should get one? Absolutely at least a powertrain warranty for half the term of the loan or longer.

3. You will have very little success getting a warranty thrown in after you've negotiated their price down significantly. Personally if I knew a warranty cost me as the dealer $1000 and I was charging you $2000 I would rather throw in a warranty then discount my price $2000. It's pretty obvious why. I would stick to negotiating on the car... Letting the dealer believe that you are going to buy a warranty from him and then once he agrees to your price and the warranties being pitched that's when you can bring up your credit union having the same warranty for half the price... Don't relent... Don't submit... And don't back down the firm but fair and very nondramatic.

4. When you go and test drive the vehicle, make sure you check the fluid levels, specially the oil touched the end of the dipstick to make sure it's clean and fresh oil and not dark dirty disgusting oil... Smell the end of the dipstick to see if the oil smells like gas... When you open up the radiator cap on the vehicle before you drive it look at the And see if there's rust or condensation or chocolate milk you looking residue... If there is that's not good. Check the windshield and see if there's a oil change sticker in the corner on the driver side and checked the date and the miles on it. What you are looking for is a current date and miles greater than the miles on the vehicle changing cars oil on a regular basis is the one proven way to have a car last a very long time.

5. Check the tire tread make sure their least 50% or better. When you get in the car and started put your foot on the brake shift the vehicle into drive and wait to feel it engage into gear, then shifted slowly into reverse and weight they feel the transmission engage going backwards to this a couple times and you're looking for in an abrupt clunk or a hard shift feel when it goes into gear either forward or backward.

6. After you have finished test driving the vehicle thanks the salesman for his time, ask him for his card (if he doesn't have one that's a bad sign and speaks to the quality and professionalism of the operation) and then after he gives you his card verify that the e-mail on the card is correct and then leave. The biggest mistake a lot of people make is sitting at the dealership all day long looking at the car that they like and are overanxious to make the deal and get out of there. This is where your patience will always pay off. Tell your mom to leave the check at home so she is and even tempted. Then go home and finish all the rest of the negotiations by e-mail and text message. A lot of people have a hard time negotiating price effectively because they do it so seldom. It would be much easier for you to tell the salesman you're willing to pay $8500 for the car if you don't have to look at at him and watch him roll his eyes and his jaw hit the table incredulously. After you've test driven the vehicle than only time you should go back to the dealership is to sign the papers and take delivery of the vehicle it's a much better use of your Saturday afternoon and it takes away a lot of the dealer's negotiating impact. They no longer control the dealů you do!

7. The average dealer profit on a car deal in America today is approximately $2600.00 - $2700.00 I don't know about you but I don't give that kind of money to people I like let alone people I don't even know. I took the liberty of booking him and him  out a fairly standard version of the Ford Escape and with a little luck it posted with my response. This is for the Ford escape XLT version with no leather roof and no special aftermarket goodies just your basic xlt with power windows locks tilt cruise alloy wheels stuff like that. If you shoot me a link to the actual vehicle I could give you a more accurate book value to get you started. In this example and assuming this is the exact car that you are contemplating, my Ford escape has a book value of 11,700. AFTER a huge mile deduction ... since this vehicle was less than five years old I would then look to the rebates and incentives available on the brand-new models ...2014/15 late model used cars compete directly with new cars and so if there's a huge rebate on a new car then the value of the late model used cars has to go down incrementally depending upon the year etc. in this case there's $1500 customer cash or 0% for 60 months on the 2015 and $1500 cash or 72 months at 0% for the 2014. The next place I would look to formulate an offering price is the Manheim market report or MMR. The MMR will tell us exactly what this exact vehicle sold for through one of the Manheim auctions in the last 60 days... that's the true spot market value of the vehicle. This is where the math gets fuzzy because I need more information on the car you're looking at there's a huge disparity between a four-cylinder front-wheel-drive XLS Escape and a six-cylinder four-wheel-drive XLT or limited escape going through the auction. If you could supply me with more info or link to the vehicle we could zero right in on this one . The MMR on the vehicle I booked out is approximately $10,200 and to this number you would have to add auction by fees, arbitration fee etc. so figure 10,600 for the 4 x 4 escape XLT with a six-cylinder engine.

8. The most important thing here is to not be in a hurry there's no car that you must have today that's worth paying an extra thousand or $2000 for in my opinion and you wouldn't have written to me if it didn't matter to you as well my personal e-mail is  please send me the link or vin number or better description of the vehicle and I will give you some better numbers to work with.

I think that answers most of your questions and since you are not comfortable with haggling I really hope you take my advice and haggle by way of e-mail and text from the comfort of your home. Be firm but fair be nondramatic hold your ground seriously consider getting the car inspected because what better way to know what you're buying them to have somebody who knows what they're looking for check it out. You can send me as many follow-ups as you want until your crystal clear on everything provided you send in the survey they send you with perfect scores and maximum bonus points once you do . I will hang with you through this whole process if you'd like and then you will see firsthand how to buy a car the right way and not get screwed.. I mean it's your first car you should enjoy driving it

This answer was dictated but not edited so please excuse any typos or sentences that don't make  

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Roger Alvey


I can answer any question about the car buying process. I am a recognized industry expert on all issues regarding auto finance, including sub prime and buy here pay here financing, I can answer questions about car lock out systems, GPS monitoring by your bank, and about auto recovery methods and defenses. I am a 20 yr car industry expert and can tell you what to look for in a used car, how to negotiate the deal, help with how to market your own car, and how to negotiate with the internet department of any car store. I can tell you every single way the dealer is set up to beat you and how to avoid those traps, I can discuss all aftermarket and extended service contract products you will be offered in the finance process, I have lectured extensively on "The Best Way to Buy a Car" to civic groups and university students. I am a credit expert and can tell you what the dealer and banks are looking for and the rate you can expect to pay. CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE AT


20 years industry experience in top management of dealerships and dealer groups. Recognized industry expert since 2004 in the Top 10 industry experts for The Gerson Lehrman Groups Auto Industry Council. I also do consulting work for Experts360, Atheneum Partners, Expert Connect and Coleman Research. I have been a franchise owner and understand all facets of the auto industry from the time the car leaves the factory until it leaves the lot with it's new owner. I have written training materials for both the prime and the subprime sales and finance process.

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Willamette University - Salem Oregon BA Economics Willamette University Graduate School of Business - Econometrics Statistics

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