Car audio systems: tips for your new or used car.

Advance Auto PartsIt used to be that once you bought a new car, the next step was to take out the factory car audio system and then install aftermarket audio components. This is not true today.

Factory car audio systems available from the manufacturer range from basic to high quality. For example, you can get a basic system from Chrysler or an upgraded Infinity branded stereo that is better suited for the audiophile. Such a stereo will have more features and a better bass response, as well as a higher potential for volume.

Plus, the upgraded stereo system will fit with the rest of the car and will match the rest of the car’s dashboard. The knobs and dials will also match the rest of the car and often you’ll find steering wheel controls, which add convenience to the whole system. And, of course, the factory car audio will be covered under the car’s warranty, should service problems arise.

There are more aspects of factory car audio systems to consider.

The cost of a factory radio is higher; the factory radio is not easy to upgrade, and replacing it with another system can be more difficult.

On the plus side, a factory car audio system will save you installation costs, look better in your car, and sound pretty good to boot!

Used car questions: what’s the best choice of audio for me?

If you’re planning to purchase a used car, buying an aftermarket audio system poses its own set of challenges. Researching the audio system that will work with your car is worthwhile. It will probably raise the following used car questions:


  • What speakers should I install?
  • How about a sub-woofer?
  • How about the power requirements of the new system?
  • Do I need to re-wire the car’s audio system to handle the added power?
  • How much will it cost? (The cost of an aftermarket system can sometimes get out of hand.)


Editor’s note: If you’re operating on a budget (and who isn’t these days?) you should check out the audio components available at Advance Auto Parts—audio components that offer good value, ease of installation and killer sound.


How to Buy a Used Car the Smart Way: Top 3 Tips

Get quality auto partsLet me tell you a cautionary tale about buying a used car. A good friend of mine just bought a Camry from the mid-1990s. Low mileage, no rust. Legendary Toyota reliability. The asking price was $2,200. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Unfortunately, that’s exactly how my friend approached the purchase: without really using his brain. He basically bought the car on blind faith, no questions asked. And you know what happened? Two weeks later, the automatic transmission failed. He had to pay almost as much as the purchase price just to get his car back on the road.

Look, the fact is that any used-car purchase is a gamble. You can never be a hundred percent sure what you’re going to get. But if my friend had asked me for used car buying advice, I would have given him the 3 tips discussed below, and they might have saved him a lot of time, money and headaches.

So don’t make the same mistake he did. Heed my tips on how to buy a used car, and minimize the likelihood of bringing home a lemon.

3. Read consumer reviews to learn about common problems

The internet is full of online car reviews written by drivers just like you, and these reviews are an invaluable source of consumer information. Why? Because people love to talk about problems they’ve encountered with their cars. For example, if the used car you’re considering has a trouble-prone transmission, chances are you’ll hear all about it in those reviews. Armed with this knowledge, you can ask better used car questions of the seller, and you’ll also have a better idea of what to look for when you’re inspecting and test-driving the car.

I recommend starting at and looking up the specific year, make and model of the car to access relevant consumer reviews. But don’t just limit yourself to that one year; do additional research to determine the other years in which the car was produced, and check out consumer reviews for those years, too.

2. Run a vehicle history check

There’s really no excuse for not doing this, folks. For only $25 or so, an online vehicle history check tells you if there have been any reported accidents or other damage-causing events (like flooding), and it also tells you if the odometer readings through the years indicate any manipulation.

Will every single issue be reported? No, but the major ones will be, so anything that shows up on one of these reports is a real red flag. I personally recommend buying only cars with clean records: no accidents, no nothing. But if you decide to pursue a vehicle that doesn’t have a clean history, keep in mind that the history report can be a valuable bargaining tool.

The two major online providers of vehicle history reports are and Pick the one you like best and go get that report!

1. Have a knowledgeable mechanic perform a pre-purchase inspection

Most people balk at the $100 fee that mechanics typically charge for this service, but remember the story of my friend and his ill-fated Camry. When you’re faced with something like a $2,000 transmission-replacement bill, you’re really going to regret having skipped this step. Paying a mechanic to inspect a used car before buying is the single most important thing you can do to ensure that you’re not getting a lemon. So grit your teeth and fork over the hundred bucks. I promise you’ll thank me later.

If you’re wondering how to inspect a used car before buying, the key is to find a mechanic who is both knowledgeable about the car you’re looking at and indifferent to whether you buy it or not. So if you’re looking at a Toyota, find yourself a local Toyota mechanic with a good reputation (I recommend reading consumer reviews on, and make sure he’s not a business associate or family friend of whoever’s trying to sell you the car. Also, don’t forget to ask the mechanic to “road test” the car in addition to putting it on a lift in his garage.

Oh, and don’t worry if you want to buy a used car online that’s located across the country—Advance’s Find My Mechanic feature can connect you with someone skilled in used-car inspections. Or, companies like Inspect My Ride let you tap into a nationwide network of inspection specialists.

Anyway, that’s the best used car buying advice I’ve got. Hasn’t let me down yet, and I hope it works for you, too. Good luck!

Editor’s note: Once you do find your new ride, count on Advance Auto Parts for the best in quality auto parts, services and more. Buy online, pick up in store.

How to inspect a used car before buying

At one point or another, everyone has used car questions. One of the most common ones is based around how to inspect a used car before buying. In the end, it’s not that difficult, especially if you know what to look out for.

For starters, there are sound, general practices to follow, such as:

  • Take the vehicle for a road test. If possible, travel on a variety of roads — such as residential, country and highway — to get a better feel how the car handles at different speeds and conditions.
  • Purchase a vehicle history report to alert you to indications of flood damage, severe accidents and other red flags.
  • Ask for maintenance and repair records from the seller.

Perhaps the most important used car buying advice we can offer, though, is to hire a mechanic to check the secondhand car.

Used Car Questions Why this piece of used car buying advice is so important:

Unless you’re skilled at spotting potential car trouble, it’s wise to get a mechanic to check a secondhand car.

Sure, this will cost you some money upfront. Most secondhand car inspections are around $100. But, this inspection can save you money, too:

  • If the mechanic identifies weaknesses in the car that need immediate repair, you can use this information to negotiate a lower price with the seller.
  • The mechanic may also see that the vehicle has been poorly maintained, and alert you that you’ll be looking at multiple repair jobs in the near future. Again, you could use this get a better price. Or, you may just want to pass on the car, and save yourself the money and hassle of dealing with a lot of repair work.

Most importantly, if there are major safety issues with the car, an inspection could prevent you from being seriously injured.

Of course, there’s the bright side, too. A glowing report from your mechanic will give you some peace of mind and an extra bit of confidence about your investment.

A mechanic can help answer used car questions even with remote purchases.

Did you know you can get a mechanic to check a secondhand car even if the vehicle isn’t located nearby? Remote mechanic inspection services are available throughout the country.

Here’s how it works.

A mechanic with a mobile unit will go to where the car is located, perform the inspection on the spot and send you a detailed report of the findings. The report will often be accompanied by photos of the vehicle taken from different angles so you can spot any dents, scratches or other imperfections.

With mobile inspections, the mechanic can’t get the vehicle on a lift. So, this report won’t be as detailed. But, even so, a mobile report is well worth the money.

Sometimes a seller (local or remote) won’t allow a mechanic to inspect the car. What should you do in those cases?

The smart move is to walk away. It’s entirely reasonable to ask for an inspection. After all, you’re considering a major investment. If a seller refuses the inspection, it’s probably because of what you might find out from the report.

Editor’s note: We hope you’ve found this installment on how to inspect a used car before buying helpful. Visit an Advance Auto Parts store for a wide selection of quality auto parts for all makes and models. 

How to buy a used car online: buying advice for modern times.

How to buy a used car online: buying advice for modern times.

Not too long ago, when in the market for a secondhand car, you were usually limited to cars located within about a 50-mile radius of your home. Your primary source of information was the classifieds section in your local newspaper.

Used car buyingThat’s changed dramatically. Sure, your local classified ads remain a good source of information about available secondhand cars. But, thanks to the online marketplace for previously owned cars, your potential marketplace now stretches from coast-to-coast.

When considering how to buy a used car online, you need to keep the typical used car questions in mind, along with some specific ones that pertain to buying online.

Here you’ll find practical used car buying advice for online purchases.

Start by scouting what’s available. Some viable sites include:

Also, online bulletin boards sites that contain secondhand car listings (such as Craigslist) can be a good potential source of vehicles, too.

Once you’ve found some candidates:

  • Do some research. Check reliability records for the makes and model years in question.
  • Comparison shop online to find the best prices for your top choices.
  • Get the Kelley Blue Book value for those cars.
  • Order vehicle history reports before buying.
  • Have a mechanic inspect the vehicle. (There are services located throughout the country that will perform this for you if the vehicle isn’t in your area.)
  • Have your financing in place.
  • Negotiate for the best price based on your research (this may not be an option depending on the seller or the site).

Consult trusted sources to find more information about how to buy a used car online.

Sources like AAA, the Better Business Bureau, your state’s attorney general’s site, as well as other government sites may offer more solid used car buying advice, and provide answers to other used car questions.

No matter what, just be sure to get advice from a knowledgeable, impartial source that has your best interests in mind.

Editor’s note: After you buy your secondhand car, take good care of it with quality auto parts from another trusted source: Advance Auto Parts. Keep an eye out here for more info on used cars coming soon.


Is there a best time of year to buy a used car?

If you ask your next-door neighbor, a co-worker and a close friend the question “When is the best time of year to buy a used car?” you’ll probably get three different answers.

That’s because—unlike what you may have heard—there really isn’t a single best time.

Used car questionsEven in the new car market, there are several theories around the peak times to look for deals. Some will say to shop late in the month, early in the week, near closing time, on rainy days, during holiday periods or at the end of the year.

While some of these may contain a little truth, there isn’t much solid evidence behind any of them. (Besides, dealerships have heard all these rumors, too.) And that’s even truer for secondhand car sales.

Do you still want to know the best time of year to buy a used car? The answer is: after you’ve done your homework.

Find out the book values of the secondhand cars you like, shop around online and in person to locate the most affordable prices and learn some practical negotiating tips.

Taking these measures will save you more than waiting for some magical (and mythical) “best time.”

Used car buying advice: wondering what to look for in your vehicle?

What type of used car questions should you ask when buying a previously owned vehicle? What should you have investigated? Here’s some used car buying advice:

  • Have a mechanic inspect the vehicle before buying
  • Take the car for a test drive (travel on routes with different speed limits and terrain types, if possible)
  • Ask if there’s any type of warranty
  • Know the Lemon Laws for your state
  • Closely check the exterior and interior for obvious and “hidden” signs of damage (including water and fire)
  • Inspect the trunk
  • Ask for repair records
  • Order a car history report
  • Consider your financing options before visiting the seller
  • Do your homework and be ready to negotiate

Use this as a starting point for used car buying advice. After doing your own research, you’ll get a better understanding of what to look for.

Keep in mind that many financial experts recommend purchasing a previously owned car, especially because of the fast depreciation associated with new vehicles. But, that only works in your favor if you buy a secondhand car that’s safe and reliable.

Editor’s note: Keep checking the Advance DIY auto blog for more tips on buying used cars. After you’ve purchased your car, rely on Advance Auto Parts for the quality auto parts needed to keep it running right. Shop online, or stop by any of our auto parts stores for friendly, expert advice.