Looking for cars in the wrong places

All Pocatello resident Sunny Xavier wanted was to find a car — a Honda Accord to be exact.

What she found was a great price, leather seats, sunroof, low mileage and automatic transmission. The white 2005 Honda Accord was for sale for $2,800.

“I felt suspicious with the way he was responding with lengthy explanations as if trying to gain my trust,” she said.

When she saw the advertisement on Craigslist, she simply wanted to know about the availability. You see, the phone number — area code 208 — was incomplete; it had a number missing, so she wrote to the Web address.

The explanation she received was from a “Sgt. Tom Busen” and featured an exhaustive list of details. He wrote that he was in Kuwait.

Xavier asked all the right questions: How do you ship the car to Pocatello? Exchange the titles? Hand over money? Can I test drive?

Young people fresh from high school or college are quick to look for a car, but sometimes fall prey to scam artists.

Xavier walked away from the Craigslist deal.

Before you buy, consider this:

• Set a price limit. Decide the maximum amount you can spend — or the maximum monthly payment if financing the car with a loan — before starting your search.

• Determine where to buy the used car. There are three common venues: private parties, dealerships and independent lots. Private parties tend to have more reasonable prices. Buying a used car from a dealership provides carefully inspected vehicles and strong warranties.

• Choose a car that fits specific needs. Think about the equipment the car offers, the safety features, the car’s conditions and any family needs.

• Do the research. Look online at websites such as Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com). There are many online resources to check the average retail prices of various makes and models of used cars depending on the year and how many miles are on the car. These prices will give you an idea of what the used car should sell for when looking at different locations.

• Test drive the vehicle. Be thorough when test driving a used car and make sure to examine all of the features. Turn the car to “accessory mode” to ensure all dashboard lights are on. If either the “check engine” or “ABS” light remains unlit, it could be a sign that the car has been interfered with to cover-up a serious issue. While driving, carefully check the brakes, steering and gear shifting. Make sure to listen to the engine for any noises. Test drive the car on the highway, back roads, through traffic and any other types of terrain the car will be driven on.

• Get a history report and inspection. When looking to purchase a used car, copy down the vehicle identification number (VIN), which is located on the driver’s side dashboard near the window or on the driver’s side door. Make sure all VINs are identical. The VIN provides an AutoCheck Vehicle History Report and allows the buyer to check the title of the used car. No matter where the used car is being purchased from, ask the seller for a copy of the service records and bring the car to a dependable mechanic to inspect before making the purchase.

Robb Hicken is an investigator for the BBB serving the Snake River Region. Contact him at (208) 523-9758 or by emailing rhicken@idahofalls .bbb.org.