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  Car buyers: What to bring to the car dealership  

If you are ready to purchase a used vehicle here's a list of things to bring with you to the dealership.

Pen and paper - You'll need to write down some basic information for research before you buy the car. Write down the VIN#, year, make, model and mileage.

Calculator - Divide the number of miles by the age of the vehicle. Keep in mind even though it may be a 2006 it could have been sold in the fall of 2005. Check the inside of the driver's side door panel for the manufacturer date. If it is more than 15,000 miles per year you may want to be a little cautious.

CD - It is always a good idea to check the cd player (if equipped) to make certain it is in good working order.

A preapproval from your bank - It is a good idea to visit your own bank and get a preapproval prior to going to the dealership if you are planning on financing the vehicle. If you go through the banks the dealership uses there may be hidden fees or even a higher interest rate.

Paystubs, W-2, and a recent bill - If you need specialty financing this documentation may be needed for income and address verification. If you do not receive any bills in your name at your residence, you can call an insurance agent and have them mail you an estimate. This will usually suffice for address verification.

Hand towel or small cloth - You will want to check the oil and transmission fluids. If the oil has a milky look, this can be a sign of major engine problems. Smell the transmission fluid, if it smells burnt, it may have a bad transmission.

Laptop - If you have a laptop, bring it along and do a VIN check on the vehicle. The VIN# can be found at the bottom of the windshield on the driver's side, or on the inside panel of the driver's door. You can find out if the car has ever had flood damage and also if it has been in any accidents. You can also look up the book value.

List of cars and price you are willing to pay - Do some research on the cars you like. Write down their book values and options. Also look at your local market and check the average asking price for the different cars in which you are interested. Keep in mind, this is only their asking price. They will usually sell the car for less than they are asking.

A penny - This coin can be used to check the treadwear of the tires. Turn the coin sideways with the top of Lincoln's head downward. Place the coin between the treadlines of the vehicle. The tread should at least reach the top of Lincoln's head.

Driver's License - You won't be able to test drive without it. In some states you may also be required to have proof of insurance.

Downpayment - If you are serious and want to get the best deal have your downpayment with you. It is hard for a salesperson to pass on an offer when he sees the downpayment in your hand.

Coolant Tester - This tool can be picked up very inexpensively at any auto parts store. Since you'll want to check the level of the fluid anyway, you might as well test it too. No need to remove the radiator cap. Just open the overflow and test the fluid there. Simple instructions are on the package.

Name and location of a local garage - You should have enough time on your test drive to take the vehicle to a local repair shop. Have them do a vehicle inspection, they usually advertise a 29 point check or something to that extent. There will be a minimal fee, usually $25 - $75, or maybe even free if it is your regular mechanic.

And last but not least, a mechanic or someone with mechanical knowledge - Don't be afraid to ask a friend who is very biased to go with you, they will be flattered. You will need someone who is willing to look underneath the vehicle for any leaking fluids. Be sure to have them look before and after the test drive. This person can also check the fluids for you. It is a good idea for both of you to test drive the vehicle too.