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First Time Car Buyers Beware - 5 Red Flags

Pushy Salespeople: The salesperson should be there to serve your needs – not the other way around. If the dealer is pressuring you to purchase a certain car or isn’t interested in learning what your needs are, then that should be a red flag. A good car buying experience shouldn’t involve pressure. You should feel that the salesperson is listening to you and understands how best to serve you and your specific needs.


Price haggling: Haggling over price is stressful and exhausting. Good car dealers who care about making the car buying process easy for their customers provide clear, upfront pricing. If the salesperson can’t give you a clear, upfront price for the car, be very careful.


Giving unclear or indirect answers to your questions: The dealer should be as transparent with you as possible. If you ask them a simple question like “how long have you had this car on the lot”, you should be receiving a straight answer. Car dealers have a bad reputation because it’s assumed that they are always trying to hide something from the customer. It’s extremely important to have your questions answered so that you’re not left wondering what information is being withheld by the dealer. While it’s not realistic for a salesperson to know everything, they should always try to find answers to your questions or help point you in the right direction to find answers yourself.


Hidden fees: Hidden fees allow dealers to advertise their cars for less and lure you into the door. Make sure you get the total price up front. Almost all dealers charge a documentation fee as well as tax, tag, and title fees if they are registering the car for you. Documentation fees can be as high as $895. There’s nothing worse than getting all the way to the end of the process and finding out you owe one thousand or more dollars on top of the purchasing price.


Won’t let you take it to a mechanic: This should be a giant red flag for any used car shopper. Minor issues are common in any used car. It’s important to have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle before purchasing it. They can spot potential problems such as belts, hoses, leaks, tire wear, and structural components.

10 Things to Inspect on a Used Car before Buying

10 Things to Inspect on a Used Car before Buying

Not everyone is a mechanic, but here's a list of simple things that you can check yourself

Fluids: Before starting the vehicle, check the oil level and the oil color. Make sure that it isn’t chunky or milky. Oil can be lighter or darker depending on the type used (synthetic or conventional), but it should have a consistent texture. Some people even like to smell the dipstick to see if it smells burnt. Also check the coolant in the radiator and reservoir to ensure there’s no corrosion or lumpiness in the fluid.

Engine sound: There are hundreds of components involved in modern internal combustion engines. Even for the experienced mechanic, it can be difficult to pinpoint certain sounds. But the overall idea is to make sure there’s no loud knocking or ticking sounds coming from the engine. If something sounds weird to you, make sure a trusted mechanic checks it out and gives it the OK before purchasing.

Transmission: During a test drive, be aware of how the car shifts as you accelerate. A solid transmission shouldn’t have any hard shifts, slips, or hesitation between gears.
A/C and heat: It’s easy forget to check the A/C on a used car in the wintertime (or the heat in the summertime).

Exterior lights: Make sure all lights are functional, including turn signals, brake lights, and hazard flashers.

Tire tread: The easiest way to check tire depth is by using a penny. Hold the penny upside down and insert it in the tread. If you can see Lincoln’s hairline, it’s time to replace the tires. If using a tire depth gauge, anything less than 4/32” needs to be replaced.

Undercarriage: Inspect the underside of the vehicle for signs of rust or damage. When it comes to rust on a vehicle a good saying is “if the rust is only skin deep, that’s a vehicle you can keep. But if it affects the frame, that can be a recipe for pain.”

Leaks: Look under the hood for any visible signs of leaks. You can also look at the front undercarriage to see if there’s any fluid underneath. Just be aware that if the A/C is running, it’s normal for condensation to drip underneath the vehicle (it would actually be bad if it didn’t).

Smells: When the engine is running, there shouldn’t be any weird odors coming from the motor or exhaust pipe. Smells are typically a sign that oil, antifreeze, or another fluid is being burnt or leaking.

Codes: If you have access to an OBDII scanner, plug it in and run a diagnostic. Make sure that there are no major check engine codes or incomplete readiness monitors.

7 Ways to Increase Your Gas Mileage

How to maximize your fuel economy

Proper maintenance: Getting the most miles per gallon out of your car requires first off keeping it well-maintained and tuned up.

Properly inflated tires: Check your tire pressure at least twice every oil change interval. This will not only increase your MPGs, but it will also give you a smoother ride.

Proper alignment: Keeping your car going in a straight line will make it more fuel efficient and prevent uneven tire wear. If you notice uneven tire wear, the car pulls to one side, or the steering wheel is crooked, you should consider getting an alignment.

Remove unnecessary weight: The heavier the car, the more gas it will consume. Clean out the junk in your trunk and you’ll save money at the gas pump.

Stop “warming up” your car: Idling your car to warm it up wastes gas and is unnecessary. The common misconception that cars need to warm up before driving used to be true back when engines had carburetors, but modern fuel-injected engines don’t receive any benefit from it. Today’s cars have sensors that regulate the air-fuel mixture. Idling is counterproductive because cold engines require more gas in the mixture than warm engines. Starting your car, give it a few seconds to build oil pressure, and then driving will save gas because it allows your car to warm up quickly and the sensors will reduce gas in the air-fuel mixture ratio.

Cruise control: Maintaining a constant speed will help reduce fuel consumption. Except for steep hills, using cruise control is the best and easiest way to maintain a constant speed. It can also prevent speeding and save you from getting a ticket

Reduce AC use: Running the air conditioning hurts fuel economy by an average of 3 MPGs. On days where it isn’t blistering hot, save gas by cycling your AC on and off during the drive. The air will still blow cold for short periods of time after you click the AC off. If you can get by without it, keep the AC button turned off to save gas.

For more tips and tricks to keep your car in tip-top shape follow our monthly blog posts at www.MarkedDownMotors.com

6 Reasons to Pay Cash for a Car

Paying cash for a car instead of financing is the best choice for many people. Here are just a few reasons:

1) No car payment
Owning a car is expensive. According to AAA’s recent study, the average cost of owning a car is $8,876 per year. You can lower this number by as much as $5,000 by paying cash for a car and not having a car payment every month. Instead of a $300/month car payment you can save that money or put it towards unexpected expenses such as medical bills.

2) No interest
Customers who finance a car can expect to pay an average of 5.27% annual interest on a 60 month loan according to ValuePenguin. Interest rates can reach as high as 20% for customers with poor credit scores, leading to thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) extra money spent just on interest.

3) Save on insurance
Paying cash for a car and owning it outright gives you the option to carry basic liability coverage for a vehicle. In South Carolina, the average insurance savings for customers carrying liability coverage is $1,036 per year. That doesn’t include the fact that full coverage insurance requires a deductible (usually $500) to be paid before you can use any of the extra insurance. If minor damage needs to be repaired such as a bumper or windshield, it wouldn’t make sense to spend a $500 deductible (and have your insurance rates go up) rather than fix it yourself for cheaper.

4) Flexibility
When you own the car, no one can tell you what to do with it. You want to sell it? Sell it! You want to paint it, change the wheels, turbo-charge it, go ahead! It’s your car with your name on the title, not the bank’s.

5) Pay less overall
Here is a real example I pulled from a Buy Here Pay Here (financing) dealer’s website for a 2010 Ford Fusion with 125,000 miles. Retail (cash price) value $5,999. Below are the terms of the deal:
     Down payment $ 795
     Payment amount $ 85
     Number of payments 105 (weekly for 24 months)
     Extra cost of insurance $ 1,702
     Total paid $11,422
Paying cash for this car would save you $5,423!

6) Get more for your trade
If you ever decide to upgrade your car, you’ll have much more leverage at the dealership when you hold the title. Dealerships pay less for trades that have liens because it complicates the process for them. You’ll also be less pressured to take a lowball offer because you don’t have to make a car payment on it this month.

4 Tips to Keep Your Used Car Running Longer

Maintenance is the most important thing your vehicle needs in order to stay on the road longer. Follow these quick and easy tips to help maximize the life of your car.

1) Change your oil every 3,000 – 5,000 miles
Oil changes are the most important part of your car’s routine maintenance. Oil lubricates the internal components of your engine, takes debris away from vital areas, and absorbs heat to keep the fast-moving parts from overheating. Over time, the oil breaks down, its viscosity increases, and it becomes less effective at doing its job.

2) Check your coolant level regularly
Coolant (also known as antifreeze) keeps your engine from overheating. It absorbs heat as it travels through your engine. Without enough coolant in the system, your engine will overheat causing damage to the internal components. Always make sure your radiator and coolant reservoir are properly filled. But never open your radiator cap unless the engine has properly cooled off because the heat and pressure could cause severe burns.

3) Keep your tires properly inflated
To prevent flat tires and blowouts, it’s important to keep the proper amount of air in your tires. It will also save you money in two ways: first on tire replacement costs because properly inflated tires will wear down slower than under/over inflated ones, second on gas because you'll be getting more MPGs.

4) Check your oil level regularly
Many older cars (and even newer cars) can burn or leak oil. A good habit is to check your dipstick once every other week. If your car burns or leaks oil, add as needed to keep the level in the safe zone area of the dipstick. If severe, have the problem inspected by a trusted mechanic.