Drive Off With a Deal on a Used Car

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Drive Off With a Deal on a Used Car
While buying a used car can save you thousands, it's also easy to get ripped off if you don't know what to look out for. Here are a few tips to help you determine whether you're getting a great deal or a lemon in disguise.

One of the first things to do is check under the vehicle. If you see oil drips or colored fluid on the pavement, you might have some costly repairs ahead of you. While you're down there, check the tread wear on all the tires and make sure that the spare, jack and lug wrench are in good shape as well.

The suspension is also really important to inspect. To do this, go to each corner and bounce the car up and down. If the shock absorbers are in good shape, they should only rebound once. Too much movement likely means that the shocks and struts need to be changed. These can cost a lot of money to replace, so be sure to test all sides.

Next, move to the front of the car and take a look under the hood. Inspect all fluid levels and test the various hoses on the radiator and air conditioner by giving them a squeeze. The rubber should be firm yet pliable, not hard, cracked or mushy.

Lastly, inspect the interior of the car. This is where you'll be spending most of your time, so be sure to try out every button, switch and lever so you don't get any expensive surprises down the line.

Once you're done, turn the ignition without starting the engine to check all the warning lights in the dashboard. While you're in there, switch on the headlights and blinkers to make sure they work, too.

Now that you've covered all your bases, you're ready for the most important part: the test drive.
Follow these tips before you buy and you'll help ensure a smooth ride.

Drive Off With a Deal on a Used Car -- Savings Experiment
Those buying a $100,000 convertible might brush off insurance costs as an afterthought. They should think twice. Annual rates can be almost 20 percent of a new car's sticker price, often an extra $20,000 a year for today's top models.

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SL Class
MSRP: $135,400
Insurance: $22,536

S ClassMSRP: $123,888
Insurance: $21,161

The convertible SL is Mercedes' most expensive production offering. The S Class sedans, while no less luxurious (and only slightly less expensive), aren't quite as sporty.

More on the SL and S Class
MSRP: $122,050
Insurance: $20,942

Mercedes' CL is based on the stately S Class sedans, but sports only two doors for a sleeker profile. Zero to 60 in 5.4 seconds will get you to the office in time, but it comes at a price. With a monster V8 engine, the federal gas-guzzler tax applies. And then there's the insurance.

More on the CL Class
MSRP: $115,000
Insurance: $20,100

Good luck getting your hands on an Alpina B7. BMW is only selling 200 in the U.S. A souped-up version of the 7-series full-size sedan, the Alpina features bigger wheels, better suspension and an advanced stabilization system. All of this makes going fast a bit safer. But speed comes at a price.

More on the Alpina B7
MSRP: $82,500
Insurance: $16,220

The M Series cars are meant to go fast, and for insurers, speed is dangerous. Both the M6 and the more practical M5 sedan have roaring V10 engines.

More on the M5 and M6
MSRP: $95,600
Insurance: $17,784

The G Class is a boxy, military style SUV from Mercedes. Indeed, it was originally designed for the battlefield. But don't let the lack of finesse fool you--today the G Class is all luxe. The door handles are wrapped in leather, and a DVD-based navigation system keeps drivers on target.

More on the G Class
Next: Audi S8 and A8
We'll help you make it, save it and spend it wisely.

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