But beyond covering yourself legally, asking a lot of questions just gives you a sense of the car, its history and lets you know if there may be any issues you need to be aware of.

auto mechanic using laptop in front of car repair

No. 2: Was all recall work done?

Some cars get recalled for seemingly stupid reasons (the manual wasn't bound properly, the stereo dial only goes up to "9"), but many recalls do matter. They matter in a car-bursting-into-flames-when-it-goes-over-40 mph sort of way. Check to ensure that the car is current on all recall work, and if it isn't then find out why.

Technical service bulletins are another thing to check. Technical service bulletins are problems that have been reported, but haven't been problematic enough to issue a recall to correct en masse.

For instance, if you are considering the purchase of a 2009 Kia Sorento, you can check the technical service bulletins and find out that there has been a problem with a bumping sensation when the damper clutch is engaged. If that's the case, then you know where to have your mechanic devote extra attention.

You can check technical service bulletins at http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/tsbs/.

broken down car automobile with hood up

No. 1: Listen to your gut

Sometimes, and there may not be tangible evidence why, but the car just doesn't seem right. If that's the case, then just walk away. The car may be pretty and shiny, but there are others out there.

There may be not a single thing wrong with it and it runs like a top, but if you have a nagging feeling that it isn't right, then go with that feeling.

But what if it is the most perfect car ever and it is the one you've wanted your whole life? Walk away. That car still exists out there somewhere; you just won't bleed money when you finally find it.

There is a growing opinion that humans have more than five senses and that intuition is one of them. If that sounds like too much hooey to you, then go ahead and buy that car despite your feelings otherwise, but don't blame us when you're stuck on the side of the road.

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