5 Tips For Buying a New Car

In a few past stories, we took a look at some of the best cars for young drivers who want to look cool behind the wheel going back to school this fall but who may not be ready for a hot rod quite yet. While they may be a few years off from driving their first Cobra, they can probably only handle a practical yet fun late-90s Mustang V6, for example. But when you begin searching for a car for your young driver, you need to make sure that your seeking out an investment that will last at least until graduation and not throwing your money away. So when you and your kid go to the used car lot, watch out for these tell-tale signs that the previous owner of a certain vehicle was less than kind to their old ride.

1. Make sure that any car you choose has a service history that shows this thing has gotten some TLC in its lifetime. While you may think that a blank – or at least close – service history is a sign that a car is in great shape and therefore simply didn't need any tuneups or oil changes, that is almost never the case.

While many people used to take pride in servicing their cars themselves, the new autos on the road are so computerized compared to the models being manufactured in the 50s and 60s that it's impossible for the layman to make even basic repairs. You want proof that this car was given a regular checkup and preferably by the same one or two mechanics.

2. Cars with mismatched tires are a sure sign that this thing was not cared for by a responsible adult. If tires are properly inflated and rotated regularly, all four tires should likely wear out around the same time. Should you notice that there are a number of different aged tires in varying states of wear, then this is just one of many things that are probably poorly handled on this vehicle.

3. Another red flag is brushstrokes in the paint job. Not only is it a sign of poor artistic skills by a previous owner, but it's also indicative of the fact that they didn't use real automobile paint but instead an indoor/outdoor latex that was designed for houses, not cars. It also means that something had to be covered up, and if the old driver couldn't even do a good job covering up the damage, imagine how well the repair went.

4. Right underneath this bad paint job could be an entire fender made out of bondo. Some drivers don't understand that this temporary fix does not magically turn into sheet metal when applied to a rusted out or dented spot of a car. This is especially true at the front of the car, where the entire right-hand quarter could collapse during only a very minor collision.

A great way to check for these is to simply bring a magnet with you to the dealership. If the car is actually made of metal, the magnet will stick. Unless you're picking up a fiberglass sports car or an early 90s Saturn (don't), the magnet should always stick if you are considering making a purchase.

5. Consider brand loyalty when picking out a different model. This kind of discrimination may seem wrong, but if you're going to get a car that has a customer base that is notorious for beating their rides into the ground, you won't want to strap your kid into the driver's seat. For example, Car & Driver magazine noted that while Camaros from the late 80s and early 90s have powerful engines and significant prowess when it comes to handling, many of the guys driving them when they were new likely had a penchant for heavy metal, cigarettes, biker chicks and not regular maintenance. You're better off putting them in a soccer-mom-obile than one of these death traps.

Do you have any tips for car shoppers hitting up the dealership this fall? Leave your tricks below: