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What to look for in a used car or SUV

Nice, but not in the price range. (Photo: Flickr/John Lloyd)

What to look for in a used car or SUV

June 22, 2012

Daily Answer is excerpted from the JustAnswer archives and features information provided from a Expert on JustAnswer.

Q: I'm looking for a used car in the $2K to $3K range, probably a minivan or smallish SUV. Anyway, could someone here offer a list of things to look at in the cars we check out? I always do a Carfax, but I'm worried about what is deep in the guts of the car.

A: The Carfax is a key step; it's not expensive and useful in verifying accidents and repairs. Otherwise you can only rely on the documents the owner has. That's why many times the car is worth more will all service records.

At the price you're looking for, you could easily pick up a Dodge Caravan in great shape. You will have to take your time looking, and weed out the junk.

Here is a great checklist of what to look for. Verify that everything runs as it should, and check for anything out of the ordinary, like rust paint covering a problem. Give it a good drive: Bring it up to speed, turn sharp corners, use the brakes hard.

If everything checks out you are still going to be taking somewhat of a gamble. Even brand-new cars may have issues. But you can prevent all of the hidden issues by giving it a thorough drive and look around.

-- Answer from Sergey B., car specialist on JustAnswer.