Is it wise to buy a car in during a "one day sale"?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1989

Dear Tom and Ray:

It has been a long time since I bought a car, and I need some advice--immediately--on how to go about it. I bought my 1971 Datsun 510 in 1973, and it's time to get another car. The reason for the urgency is that my credit union is having a one day "sale" on used Hertz 1988-1989 rental cars next week. I will have only 12 hours to think about the car, and I suppose, try it out. It is, of course, not returnable after that. Is it wise to try to buy a car under the circumstances set up by the credit union?

RAY: One day sales are fine when you're shopping for Bronco Nagurski Long Underwear, but you shouldn't rush the purchase of something as expensive as a car. The credit union is obviously trying to drum up business by offering a few points off of their regular loan rates and including the ginsu knife and the set of pots and pans with any purchase. You'd be better off skipping this sale and conducting a more careful search for your new car.

TOM: The rental car agencies are NOT bad places to look, however. Their cars are relatively new, well maintained, and most even come with warranties. I should stress two things to you, however. First, rental cars are fine as long as they are "garden variety" cars. If you buy an Olds Cutlass or a Ford Taurus from Hertz, you can be fairly certain that the people who drove it used it primarily to get from point A to point B. But picture the guy who rents a sports car---jamming it into gear, popping the clutch, burning rubber---figuring "Ah, it's just a rental car, let's see what it can do." Sounds like the kind of car you'd want to buy...huh?

RAY: The other piece of advice we give to anyone who is buying a used car is to have it thoroughly inspected by an independent mechanic. Even if you are buying a car from a dealer with 18 mechanics working for him, insist on taking it somewhere else where a mechanic of your choice can go over it headlight to tailpipe. Good luck, Trudy, and don't rush...I'm sure your 510 has at least a few more weeks left in it.

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