For many of us, buying a new car can be an expensive proposition. In comparison, buying a second hand car is often a more affordable option. The problem with a used car, however, is that you need to be sure you are getting your money’s worth.

Sellers naturally want the best possible prices on used cars. Towards this end, they often manipulate the records of vehicles, to raise their value. A rigorous used car title search, can, however, help you to know the truth.

These are five tips to help you to buy a used car:

1. Get an expert’s opinion. Even before you do a used car title search, get the car evaluated by a competent mechanic. He will help you arrive at an accurate estimate of how much you should pay for the car.

2. Check the VIN. A preliminary check in your used car title search should be to ascertain if the VIN (vehicle identification number) on the dashboard or engine compartment matches that specified in the used car title. If these numbers differ, ask your dealer for an explanation.

3. Examine records. A proper used car title search involves thoroughly investigating the history of the vehicle. Scour through the car title certificate and other records to ascertain the car’s previous ownership details-such as whether the car was driven by the owner, or whether it leased or rented out-and condition at the time of sale. Your used car title search should also ascertain whether the car has been through any accidents, been stolen, or been labeled for “salvage”. A vehicle marked “salvage” means that it is damaged up to, or over, 70% of its market value.

4. Verify inconsistencies. If you are in doubt about the information contained in the records shown by the car dealer, don’t hesitate to probe further. A thorough used car title search may require you to approach sources such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the police department, or the car manufacturer for further information.

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