Jack Simpson: Buying a used car requires some faith



Due to the economy and higher prices, many people have had to seek cheaper transportation. Gas guzzlers have been sold or traded. One fellow I know now travels to and from work on a motor scooter. He enjoys riding it and claims it is very economical to operate.

Another friend tells me he has driven his pickup 260,000 miles and expects it to go much further provided he keeps up his service. He doesn't even talk about buying a new vehicle. As a matter of fact, the truck he owns was used when he bought it.

I drive a 2001 Buick LeSabre. It is not a car I researched and fell in love with and just had to have. No, I acquired it secondhand and never drove it before I purchased it.

The original owner was an elderly lady relative of mine. She had to go into an assisted living facility and give up her drivers license. When she offered to sell me her car, I let her set the price and wrote her a check on the spot. There was no bickering. I already knew she was the original owner and had kept up her car. I had faith I wasn't buying a pig-in-a-poke and expected this car would give me years of economical service.

Oh, the Buick wasn't perfect. I found it hard for an old pickup truck driver to get in and out of. This shortcoming was offset by the car's smooth, comfortable ride. It has been trouble-free and that is a big plus. It has a kind of luxury look.

Any time an individual buys a used car, it is a gamble. The more you know about the vehicle and prior owner, the better off you will be. Know the strengths and weaknesses of the used car you are considering buying. Has the model year been reported as reliable or has it got bugs that need fixing? How does it rate on engine repairs? Does the paint job hold up? Is it in the shop constantly for brake and electrical problems? What is the rating of its transmission? Is the price reasonable?

I will admit that I did no real homework on my used Buick. Why? Well, because I bought it from the proverbial old lady who kept it in a garage, drove it to church and the grocery store. She kept it neat, clean and serviced it every 3,000 miles religiously. I bought it without research or even driving it based upon the good reputation of the owner. It was a low-mileage, reliable car that gave the lady years of trouble-free driving. I expected it to do the same for me and it has. Lucky, wasn't I?

I had not considered purchase of a Buick, but presented with the opportunity by a reliable person, I took the "good deal." Did I need a lot of fancy equipment, a back-up camera, heated seats, daytime running lights, a security system? No, and I didn't expect these options to be on this nice old lady's car. I trusted her and didn't even cut the cards. My trust was not misplaced.

Yes, I am still driving to and from work in my used 2001 Buick; however, I absolutely refuse to give up my 2002 GMC pickup! Is my neck still red?

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.