Used car tips from a pro

So I just started my internship at neighborsgo (the community news operation of the Dallas Morning News, as we always say) and so I got somewhat caught up in that last week and so I didn’t post. NEVER FEAR. I want to work on posting a lot more often.

Anyway, my last post was about shopping for used cars, but I’m not the pro. The guy I go to to tell me what a good deal is and when I’m getting gypped is Alan Johnson. He also has another name – Alan the Answer Man, or Double A. You don’t need to know his credentials, besides the fact that he is the Answer Man. (OK, he works on cars a lot.)

Here are a few of his tips:

>”A good body shop can disguise” when a car has been in an accident. All of those privately owned, Mom n’ Pop car dealerships aren’t the best places to shop. “A reputable dealer won’t sell you something like that. Used lots buy auctioned cars. A reputable lot will let you know when (a car) has damage. Reputable dealers send the crap cars to auction.”

> So if the big, good car dealers aren’t gypping you, how do they make their money? “Big dealers make their money on bank interest and you coming in to get it serviced,” Double A says.

> Wait, can’t you just find out what happened to the car through Carfax? “Carfax helps you, but you don’t know 100 percent.” Even if a car has never been in an accident, you want to be very wary if the car has over 80,000 miles. Don’t bother at all if it has over 100,000.

>”If you open up the hood and it smells like antifreeze, there’s a leak,” Double A says. He also warns to keep an eye out for “Tape, cracked belts, a cracked hose.”

> If you bring a pro like the Answer Man with you, he will also be able to tell you if the car has been repainted, or if a bumper or door has been replaced. One way that you can tell is by looking at the bolts that hold those parts in place. “Sometimes they don’t quite line up.” Look for if there’s a circle around a bolt. If there is, that’s where an old bolt used to be, meaning the part was replaced, and the car has had damage.

> “They key is, they’re in it to make money.” That may seem obvious to you, but Double A continues that though you know the car company won’t go any lower than the price they bought it for, you can still negotiate on things like free oil, tires, tire rotation, and other tune-ups. Double A hasn’t paid for an oil change in 20 years.

> Side tip: Once you have your car, be conscious of where you park it. More specifically, maybe don’t go for the closest spot in the supermarket parking lot. “Who else parks close? Fat people. They park close and open their door wide and give you door dings.” His words, not mine.