By on August 3, 2011

[Ed: Part one of Steve Lang’s updated used car buying guide is here, part two is here.]

You can rigorously apply the tests described by previous installments of this series without encountering a single setback. However when it comes to buying a used car it pays to assume one simple salient fact: you don’t know the complete truth. At least not yet.

When it comes to pursuing the deeper truths about a used car an experienced mechanic will inevitably become your greatest ally and advocate. For most consumers finding a knowledgeable mechanic will be the most important step in the used car buying process.

Before we talk about that, I want to be perfectly clear on this point. A used car is guilty until proven innocent. Do not buy one without taking the car for a professional inspection. If the seller doesn’t agree to let you do so you’re done. Period. No exceptions. Ever.

Now mechanics tend to divide into three categories: the shade-tree, the Nazi and the diligent professional.

Shade-tree mechanics are hobbyists on limited budgets. Due to the lack of equipment (or experience), they may not be familiar with the unique wear issues and maintenance needs for your vehicle. The shade-tree mechanic will look at the car’s basics, take it for a short test drive and call it good (or “not bad”).

The Nazi will attempt to perform every mechanical test known to wrenchkind. Submit the car to a standard of inspection that is rooted in la-la land. Then make you financially fearful of buying anything other than (cough! cough!) one of their vehicles.

Obviously the Nazi is a non-starter. Often times these party members will work for dealerships (but not always), and are therefore pre-occupied with meeting their service department’s monthly quota of service hours and revenue.

Unless your next car has a prancing horse or bull at the front of it, you’re usually far better off with a diligent mechanic. The diligent mechanic will work through a standard check list and then take the car for a test drive in a variety of operating conditions.

Diligent mechanics are experienced independent professionals with established roots in your community. To find one I strongly recommend visiting the Mechan-X files at

I also can’t over-emphasize the importance of personal recommendations; especially from people who own the same model of car you’re considering buying. Many small to medium-sized repair shops will post testimonials on their “ego wall.” Read them carefully.

Before the inspection takes place, collate the list of the concerns you created during the test drive. When you deliver the car for inspection, go over them with the mechanic one-by-one. Make sure you both have a clear understanding of all your potential concerns. This will provide a base line for the inspection to follow.

Some mechanics inspect used cars for a set fee. Others charge an hourly rate. In both cases, the post-list discussion should conclude with a confirmation of the probable inspection cost. Leave some leeway; you don’t want the mechanic to stop their investigations for the sake of a few bucks. (Leave your contact number for this possibility.)

The best way to build a healthy relationship with any mechanic is to simply try not to be one of “those” customers. Just let them get on with their job. Don’t stare at the mechanic while they’re doing the inspection. In fact it’s best to leave the premises entirely. And don’t phone your mechanic two hours later and ask for a status report; wait for their call.

Once the inspection is completed, sit down for a one-on-one debrief with the mechanic who made the inspection (even if you have to come back on another day). I always prefer to speak with the actual mechanic or at least have them in attendance with the “service advisor.”

Let the mechanic speak without interruption. Some diligent mechanics will go on for quite some time; some will simply say “here’s my report.” Either way review the information and let him explain every issue and potential issue to you. After they’re finished, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about” or “Is this a sign of normal wear or abuse?”

Make your own list of trouble spots from this conversation. Note down the potential cost to repair and whether or not the issue is urgent or eventual.

Once you’re finished the play-by-play, ask a few general questions. I always ask “Did the owner do a good job maintaining this vehicle?” and “Did the owner use good parts or cheap parts?” Either of these inquiries usually invites a deeper insight with the mechanic.

If the used car has survived the inspection process without revealing any critical issues to your diligent mechanic, it’s time for the final negotiation with the owner.

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45 Comments on “How to Buy a Used Car – Pt. 3: Due Diligence (The Inspection)...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Good solid advice again. How bout a LeMons competition where people sign up to do “real inspections” (as opposed to the BS ones) and then wager on which cars will actually finish the race? The ones with the highest winning percentages might have a future in Used Car Inspection.

  • avatar

    I sold a 2001 Accent a few months back. It had about 100k, and was pretty much garbage. Sorely needed brakes and replacement of the rotting tires, as well as timing belt. But it started fine, roared into fourth gear eventually (sound-wise, that is), held up at 75mph, and AC blew cold. It had all kinds of leaks, as far as i know. Buyer surprised me in shelling over 2k for it, on the spot, New York being what it is. And yet, I’m sure they will put a grand into repairs, get a good year or two out of it, and still be able to sell it for over a grand. I suspect buying and selling under 5k cars is a lot shadier for most people than any checklist would allow.

  • avatar

    Great tips.

    Be sure to do this even if the car is CPO from a dealer!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      What is CPO? It’s a check list. The world of GM is I suspect much different then the world of MBZ, BMW, and Volvo.

      Many clean looking used cars traded in are run through for a pre CPO inspection to see if they look like they will pass. Good? Ok pay the extra money and cert the car. Bad? Real bad wholesale it not too bad – to the lot!

      Take a chance after 30 days if something fails it’s on GM not us. Who makes the call to cert or not? Service manager and Used cars manager.

      What drives this? One gue$$.

      In time as the number of shops fall and the market shifts to a model more like MBZ and BMW the smaller numbers of GM shops will be much more like the shops selling the German and Japanese cars.

      Do all GM shops do this? Not by a very long shot! If the GM CPO sheet is followed by a skilled tech you get a good car after any issues are corrected.

      A good GM CPO with a long low deductible GMPP service plan will be much less costly then a car like a Toyota and will be kept running for years through GMPP. Just change the oil and keep receipts.

      I can not comment on Ford and Chrysler, other then to say Chrysler’s extended warranty is very good for coverage and ease to deal with them. I do know that at the shops I have had contact with MBZ Volvo, and BMW follow the sheet to the letter.

  • avatar

    What is an average price? Sure each situation is different, but a roundabout number. $200.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      It depends on where you live. Where I live in northwest Georgia the usual price is around $50 to $100.

      I would say that $100 to $125 is likely the average around most metro-areas. More expensive vehicles and cities will likely be more. The rural outskirts will be closer to a $50 to $75 range.

    • 0 avatar

      I was charged one hour’s labor ($94) for my last pre-purchase inspection, done by a Mercedes-specialist indy in northern CA.

  • avatar

    This is exceptional advice. I’m printing these to handout to friends and family.

    I wonder: do you think a diligent seller can get significantly more for their car than others? Say if I’ve got records of consistently having maintenance done at the dealer using only official factory parts and the highest quality fluids? something tells me that it might be easier to find some unfortunate fellow who has not heard of Mr. Lang to sell to.

    • 0 avatar

      OEM parts are not always the best option. A friend of mine had E34 BMW 525i that was always warping OEM rotors. Enter Ati. They lasted full wear cycle. At half the cost of OEM.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        One of the types of cars that Mr. Lang likes to buy are older (10 to 15 year old) American sedans that have been owned by seasoned citizens. If he checks under the hood and sees lots of OEM parts, this is a bonus. Naturally every rule has exceptions.

      • 0 avatar

        An older Detroit sedan sounds like a world of hurt.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I have not doubt that the more you inform folks about the ‘diligent’ ways you have maintained your vehicle, the higher your return will be.

      Consumers want to eliminate uncertainty when it comes to cars. Providing full disclosure of the maintenance is a great way to do that.

  • avatar

    There is at least one more category of mechanic. Back when my family still had domestic cars, we were selling a 70K mile, nine year old car. It had oil consumption issues from new, marginal brakes that were manifesting themselves as profoundly grooved rotors, and a coolant leak from around the water pump that someone(maybe me) was convinced to try to resolve with a ‘stop-leak’ product. The result was a car with brakes that mostly just made noise to warn whoever you were about to run into and a river of muddy brown coolant originating from under the hood whenever parked. A neighbor that we weren’t fans of wanted the car for her teenage son. She wanted to take it to her mechanic first. Sounded like a good idea to me. I was only asking $650 because of the problems, and I figured that the result of the inspection would be a neighbor who couldn’t scream bloody murder over the poor car later. I was wrong. The mechanic told her to buy it without saying that it needed immediate repairs.

    I sold it to her for $575, and then her mechanic informed her that it had expensive needs. Seems he didn’t want to miss out on the chance to have this car in one of his customer’s hands, as it was money in his bank account. She came back to us, and she was angry. At us. I didn’t feel like giving her all of her money back, since I’d only asked about half of wholesale and let her take the thing to her mechanic prior to buying. She ranted and raved, said she thought we were good people. Later, she called again. This time she was gloating because she found out that we sold her a $1,400 car for $575. We knew that. We sold her a $1,400 car that needed a complete brake job, a water pump, and to have the cooling system flushed of a nasty clotting product. The grinding brakes, the puddle of coolant, and her mechanic should have been clues.

    • 0 avatar

      Welcome to why I trade in cars, not sell them outright. Yeah, I get less money. The lack of post-sale hassles is worth it to me.

      • 0 avatar

        See, this is what Craigslist is for. Meet them somewhere other than your house and if you want to be really thorough, use a disposable phone number from Google Voice. You never need to see the person again.

        This is why I never sell cars to friends.

      • 0 avatar

        In my defense, this was in 1988. Disposable phone numbers and the internet were only for secret agents! My sister had this car at her college(all the way accross town) when my father bought his new car. He was going to trade in his 2.5 year old Dodge Lancer ES Turbo, but the new car dealer offered him 38% of what he’d paid for a car that only had 24K miles. He decided to keep it and give it to my sister. That left me with the job of disposing of her old car. It turns out that we should have taken the trade in on the Dodge. It continued to eat head gaskets, the digital dash went out for good before reaching 30K miles, and eventually the state of New York traced the title of it back to my parents after finding it abandoned. My sister apparently never titled it, nor did the mechanic she gave it to after giving up ever getting it to work as a car.

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    Annnnd for us people up North trying to import a car from the States, bring a trusted mechanic down with you to do the check up.

    I had my eyes set on this car a while back and started talking to the owner, everything was going along fine and we even arranged an inspection for the car from a local repair shop. Long story short, the car passed the ‘comprehensive’ test with with flying colours but when I finally got to see the car, the front bumper was held together with duct tape.

    Time and money wasted… lesson learned.

  • avatar

    How to buy a used car – due diligence – jj99 edition

    1) Buy Consumer Reports
    2) Find section where Consumer Reports ranks used cars
    3) Note how nearly every Detroit vehicle is not recommended for used cars, while most Toyota and Honda cars are recommended. Also note how Toyota and Honda have the least number of reliability issues between 5 and 10 years of age. Note how poorly 5 to 10 year old GM, Ford, and Chrysler vehicles are. Avoid GM, Ford, or Chrysler.
    4) Find the Toyota or Honda that has been cared for.
    5) Buy the Toyota or Honda.

    It is that simple.

    • 0 avatar

      6) do some math and realize if you’re buying Honda/Toyota, you might as well step up to the plate and buy new, and get exactly what you want.

      7) maintain car by the book, and enjoy for 15 years.

      The exception to (6) may be the fully loaded cars, but if the “LX” or “LE” version is what you’re buying, just buy new.

      There are some cars with domestic name plates and stellar reliability; in part because they are imports in drag: Chevrolet/Geo Prizm; Pontiac Vibe; Mercury Villager are the most common ones. Geo/Chevy also sold Suzukis and Isuzus; and Dodge used to sell Mitsubishis, but that’s way in the past.

      There are plenty of reliable domstics also, but it takes some effort so sort them.

      • 0 avatar

        “There are plenty of reliable domstics also, but it takes some effort so sort them.”

        This is a very true statement. But, most people do not have the time or knowledge to sort them. That is why I turn to Consumer Reports.

      • 0 avatar

        Buying Hondas or Toyotas new is pretty good since the depreciation isn’t bad at all if you keep them a good number of years but it’s not always financially feasible. My family bought an older Honda Accord that had been in an accident and still had a slightly crooked trunk and the thing ran completely problem free until it was 13 years old and even then the only problem it had was that my father hadn’t bothered to refill the coolant so it overheated. A cheap repair got it working OK again but my parents were in better financial condition by then so it was replaced with something newer and shinier.

        My point is that they’re still not bad choices even used.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the useless advice jj99. Will the 2012 Civic be on that list? What about the domestics that the toaster folks like? Or the ones that score well with True Delta? Though I must say it is nice to see you using your old handle again. Honesty and transparency are the hallmarks of a good fella.

      Regarding “shade tree” mechanics, there is a place for them in this process. Many of these guys are extremely well versed in a specific model and know the ins and outs of them better than some all-brand guys. It comes down to a matter of trust and experience. If “Joe” has been around say, Mustangs all his life and owns 4 and works on many of the neighborhood Mustangs, well I’d consider his input.

      Regarding the use of “quality” parts, OEM is not always the best answer. OEMs have many compromises to make when specifying parts. Cost is often one of them. Look at head gaskets for example. Many of the head gasket issues that Chrysler and Honda had back in the day were easily rectified by choosing cost no object Fel-Pro gaskets instead of cost compromise gaskets from Mopar. There are no one size fits all rules despite what some say.

      • 0 avatar

        Nope. I will avoid the 2012 Civic until Honda sorts that one out.

      • 0 avatar

        So you are going to just take Consumer Reports word for it? Not going to look and drive one for yourself to see what YOU think?

      • 0 avatar

        CR hated the Honda Insight 5-door too, and they didn’t recommend it. That didn’t stop them from noticing that it was the most reliable product in any of their surveys. They don’t like the Civic because it is built light so it delivers class best economy and class competitive performance without any bleeding edge engineering liabilities. It doesn’t have a double-stuffed interior like a Daewoo Cruze because it weighs 350 lbs less. CR is silly for rewarding gin palace interiors in cars that won’t deliver the ownership experience people who are reading CR are looking for.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      OK, I’ll do you one better.

      1) Go to carsurvey
      2) Find section where it shows the percentage of folks like or dislike a car.
      3) Note how those who worship at the Toyonda altar are now paying a premium for an increasingly inferior product.
      4) Find the vehicle you like and see if it has been given solid reviews from actual owners. Carsurvey, Edmunds and MSN Autos are good sites along with True Delta.
      5) If the overwhelming majority of folks liked the vehicle, then put it on your list.
      6) In the end get what you will enjoy. Your ownership experience will be far more joyful and it will likely cost less in the long-term.

      • 0 avatar

        Road & Track did a used car classic on the 2002-2007 Mini Coopers. What they found was that it was the worst car sold in the US since the Triumph TR-7, but the owners loved it. My ex-gf loved hers when she got it, planned on keeping it forever. A few dozen 150 mile round trips to the dealership later, it was gone. The dealer did their best. She usually had new BMWs to drive during her Mini Cooper’s many repairs. It was still a big imposition to have to swap out cars at a distant dealer constantly.

        BTW, there are a couple of cars in the ‘Toyonda’ lines that don’t produce huge loyalty according to carsurvey, but the worst of them are comparable to average competitors. The samples are small though, and there is no policing methodology to determine if reviews are genuine. If you’re trying to claim that a Cruze(89%) is better than a Civic(79%) because more Cruze buyers would buy another one then it is a huge failure of critical thinking. People who buy a car and get home and hate it are a special kind of fools. People who own a car for a few years and discover that it holds up worse than they expected are another category. Look at Cobalt(54%) and Malibu(40%) loyalty scores. All those people who hate their cars must have liked them enough to buy them at some point. The question is whether or not Cruze buyers will become typical unhappy GM owners as the cars age.

    • 0 avatar

      In my line of work I get to talk to a number of wholesalers who make their living on buying and selling used cars, usually ones with high miles and of advanced age.

      The overwhelming majority of cars that I see them driving are Ford Panthers and F-Series trucks, and GM W-bodies, B-bodies, and Silverados. During the winter while the weather is pleasant soft top Wranglers sometimes pop up, but those tend to disappear again once late spring arrives and the oppressive heat and humidity set in.

      These wholesalers work with dealers all around town, including the import brands, but it seems that for their personal conveyance the fullsize Detroit metal is always the preferred choice.

      • 0 avatar

        Nullo, I was going to comment on a thread below, but you are a pretty level-headed guy, so I’ll ask you, as you are in the business: A few years ago I read somewhere – I can’t remember where, that a study was done on foreign vs. domestic car reliability long-term. The foreign cars had far better reliability due to the simple fact that buyers of foreign cars tended to maintain them much more than the domestic car owners, who drove their cars, as a rule, into the ground, didn’t maintain them properly, and complained the most when they broke down. What do you think? True or false?

      • 0 avatar

        Zackman –

        I’ve seen mistreated cars from both foreign and domestic brands, as well as babied cars from both. The type of person who is going to care for their car is going to do that whether it’s a Ford, Toyota, or Porsche, and the type of person who is going to ignore the maintenance schedule will do the same regardless of brand.

        In the past with domestic vehicles suffering from greater fleet dumping and incentive piling, and thus having lower resale values, a lot of the BHPH lot fodder came from the domestics. There were also periods of time where the captive domestic finance arms were a little bit more lenient on credit requirements than the Japanese imports. The type of person who doesn’t bother to keep their finances in order, and thus ends up with poor credit, is also the type that’s more likely to blow off required maintenance. I’ve also seen plenty of Hyundais, Kias, and Mitsubishis that suffered from careless owners.

        The situation today is different – Ford Motor Credit is not interested in very subprime buyers, and I’ve lost deals to the local Toyota dealer because Southeast Toyota Finance will give subvented rates, or ridiculous 60 month leases, to buyers that Ford won’t even touch. With the domestic manufacturers pulling back from rental sales and resale values rising on domestic products, we’ll probably see the percentage of domestic vehicles in the hands of careless owners drop.

  • avatar

    Amen, I say to you:
    “Do not buy one without taking the car for a professional inspection.”

    Yes. Where I work, I’ve been the used-car go-to guy for our visitors, post-docs, and occasionally some locals, too.

    Years ago, I’d gotten quite good at separating the wheat from the chaff, and for a dozen or so cars, the shop found nothing I hadn’t found. Until…

    …a really clean and reasonably priced Cavalier was on offer. The mechanic diagnosed an engine in need of replacement because of piston slap. Charged only $17 cuz he found it right away, just by listening to the engine. I heard it once he pointed it out to me, but it wouldn’t have meant anything to me before then. I was so glad I’d insisted on the professional inspection.

    Always always get a professional inspection, and make sure the guy knows what he’s doing.

    • 0 avatar

      You could have avoided this whole issue by avoiding Detroit cars. I don’t need to pay a mechanic to tell me that the used Detroit car is junk. I already know that from the used car section in Consumer Reports.

      • 0 avatar


        I hate to burst your bubble, but I drive a 1992 Ford Ranger with the pushrod 4.0L V6 with the Mazda sourced manual tranny (2WD) truck that currently does just does 234600 some odd miles on it and it’ll probably at least another year or 2 more yet.

        It’s been very reliable, only 2 major repairs have been the master and slave clutch cylinders and the exhaust. The rest, tires and oil changes and some parts for the gear shifter when they finally went back in 2009.

        So how’s that domestic machine not lasting eh?

      • 0 avatar

        So every day when I see countless 10-20 year old American cars still being used as daily transportation it’s just an illusion? People with dependable 200,000+ mile American cars are making it up? Are you capable of making a decision on your own without Consumer Reports?

      • 0 avatar

        After a certain age it’s largely down to how a car has been treated. 200,000 miles of salty roads and casual neglect can make a Civic and a Cavalier equally unreliable.

      • 0 avatar
        Mr. K

        Thank you for not driving up demand for quality used cars. My 1999 Lincoln Continental cost me 4000 bucks 4 years ago, and gee now like all Tauri it needs a trans. Hey for 4K with 80K on it and now with 125K – 300 HP and a great ride and very typical boat handling (when you are over 50 you will understand) I’m very happy!

        BTW I cruise all day at 80 and get better then 20 MPG with the A/C on full blast! Nothing wrong with a camcord you pay your money and you make your choice.

        Oh, just one other thing JJ – how do you explain all the older American cars on the road today? From Focus to Cavalier to Fusion to Malibu to panthers and Buicks to MoPar minivans…Guess they just forgot to read consumers huh? Did ya know where the reliability data CR uses comes from? CR subscribers! Yeah thats a typical group of Americans!

  • avatar

    When purchasing a used vehicle I always recommend that people budget in $2000 for maintenance and repairs. If it comes out less, life is good. If it costs that, you have the cash on hand. Some people expect to buy a used car and just “buy & drive” without any more cash outlay.

    You need a clean base point to start your “new-used” car relationship and maintenance schedule.

    Here are a few MUST DO’s in my book:
    * Flush brake fluid & inspect brakes & repack bearings.
    * Change transmission fluid & filter.
    * Change coolant.
    * Change oil & filter.
    * Change differential fluid.
    * New wiper blades.
    * Inspect & balance tires.
    * Alignment & inspection at a dedicated front end shop.
    * Change timing belt if it has one.
    * Change spark plugs, PCV, and air filter.

    If you are not prepared to do this, you might as well get a cheap new car rather than a used car.

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s what I did when I bought my 2002 Golf TDI in June. I got it fairly cheap because the guy that owned it took it to the dealer for maintenance, but he mostly just did oil changes and fixed things as they broke:

      -Replaced all fluids the first weekend I had it
      -Replaced fuel filter and air filter
      -Replaced suspension on all 4 corners including new control arms, ball joints and sway bar bushings
      -Replaced brake pads and rotors at all 4 corners
      -Replaced rear calipers because the E-brake wasn’t releasing properly on one side. Since they were 9 years old, fresh ones were a good idea since I sometimes park on hills
      -Got alignment done and replaced tires
      -Used an $8 Turtlewax headlight restore kit
      -Replaced all vacuum lines
      -Replaced timing belt, cam followers and crank seal

      I’ve spent about $2500 in total on all of these items. But I knew that I’d have to drop $2000-$3000 on the car when I got it. I did my own inspection because I’m a shadetree mechanic that loves VWs with ALH engines so I knew what to look for. I did everything myself except the timing belt job, followers and crank seal. Had a TDI guru do that work for me.

  • avatar

    As someone else said, if you want a late model Honda or Toyota, just buy new. Not only because the cost is basically the same, but, as long as we are stereotyping based on CR, I say Hondas are beat on by kids and Toyotas are neglected by old people or beat on by construction workers. I’d say avoid any Honda V6 automatic, period. The transmissions are crap, and the replacements are crap.

    Seriously, buy the car you want and take care of it. It really is as simple as that. If you insist on used, ave it checked out by all means, but if you are worried, just buy new. The only reason I would buy used is if it was an old Volvo 240 or something else that wasn’t produced anymore. New cars are just better for millions of reasons.

  • avatar

    jj99-Open your eyes. You overpay for used rustbucket Toyota/Honda. Make sure the myriad of recalls are done too! 5 to 8 yr old well cared for domestic product is by far your best buy.

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    can’t believe the anti-domestic, pro-asian ranting on this subject. Has anyone been to a Toyota/Honda store lately? What do you think those 20 overall-clad fellows in the back do all day? And they deal mainly with nearly new vehicles.

    • 0 avatar


      I have owned a couple of dozen American cars but currently have a 1997 Civic (mine) and 2001 Odyssey (hers) as daily drivers. Let’s see, the Odyssey is on it’s THIRD automatic transmission at just over 100K miles, and my Civic drinks more oil than any car that I have ever owned (a quart every 200-400 miles). None of my American cars ever had either of those problems.

      The people who think that Hondas and Toyotas are perfect cars dropped right out of heaven need to wake up and smell the coffee! If you REALLY want to know what cars are good/bad, talk to any mechanic and ask them what to buy, or what NOT to buy.

      My 1988 Buick Electra T-Type (owned for 16 years, sold it still running and driving just fine at 221K miles) was the best car that I have ever owned. Original engine and tranny. Original exhaust system all the way back to the tailpipe. Original axle shafts, with the first CV boot splitting at 212K miles (sold it that way). Find me ANY 1988 Honda Accord with over 200K miles that still has its original axles or exhaust system. And with my Buick, I didn’t have to do the timing belt every 60K which saved me a couple grand in maintenance costs. Yes, I had the crappy peeling GM paint and a rattly interior.

      Face it, every car maker makes some stellar cars, and some not so much. Just closing your eyes and buying a Toyonda doesn’t guarantee perfection.

  • avatar

    This advice is great if you are buying a car locally. If you are buying a car at auction then you don’t have such an option and you’re taking a larger risk. My take is that Mr. Lang would simply not recommend people to buy from auctions, though he does it himself and I’m sure doesn’t have the option of doing such a thorough check on everything he buys. The reality is, this is how tens of thousands of car transactions are completed, on eBay or at local auctions. I like the $2000 rule (add $2000 to what you pay for potential unseen expenses), however, as we know a major repair can cost more.

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