Car classified ads: What to look for

Car classified ads are now available online as well as in newspapers, free shoppers and specialty publications. But what should you look for in classified ads to find the car that’s right for you?

Do your research
You’ll save time if you do some research about what kind of car you’d like before you begin searching the car classified ads. Do you want a sedan, sports car or SUV? Do you want a late-model vehicle or an older car? What features are must-haves – will you insist the vehicle has front and side air bags, four-wheel or all-wheel drive, air conditioning and cruise control?

Know how much you want to spend
You can simplify your search of car classified ads by arranging any financing in advance. Knowing what you can comfortably spend will help you narrow your classified ad search.

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Dealership or private seller: How to tell in car classified ads
Many car dealerships take out car classified ads, especially for used cars. Their prices are usually higher than what you would pay for a comparable car in a private sale. On the other hand, dealerships may offer warranties and other incentives. Some dealerships will put their names in their car classified ads, but others won’t. If you want to weed out dealership ads, look for similar wording or a telephone number repeated from ad to ad.

OBO and other code words
Car classified ads have their own codes, key words that signal the seller’s intent. For example, buyers willing to negotiate the price will frequently use the acronym OBO, meaning “or best offer,” or the phrase “asking price.”

Look for car classified ads that are upfront about mileage. If no mileage is listed, be sure to ask when you call: Failure to list that detail often signals a high-mileage vehicle.


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