At Klipnik, we read lots of used car listings, and it’s not because they are so beautifully crafted. Usually the opposite is true. Most are hastily thrown together and lack key details.

Not only is this frustrating for buyers, who may drive halfway across town to discover that “needs a little TLC” means there’s a goat living in the backseat. For sellers, it’s worse because a lackluster ad can easily diminish the sale price of the vehicle.

Fortunately, it’s not too hard to put a decent listing together. Just make sure to avoid these common offenses, which can tank your sale.

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Many enthusiasts hold that the E46 3 Series is the pinnacle of the BMW formula: a marvelous combination of sporting character and everyday usability in a timeless design. In fact, we heartily sing its praises in our E46 buying guide, calling it “one of the most enjoyable drives available in an affordable used car.”

But there are downsides. For example, the E46 interior can age poorly. Rubberized plastics on the center console and the door cards tend to scratch and flake; headliners are prone to sagging. And there are a few dogs in the range with sub-200 hp ratings that can feel pretty anemic compared to more modern machines.

Fortunately, the next generation 3 Series, the E90, along with its shortened-wheelbase cousin, the E82 / E88 1 Series, largely rectified these problems. Both are terrific cars. And the latter, with its tidy, E30-sized footprint and significantly lower price point, is possibly the last, best way for a budget-minded enthusiast to experience the purity of BMW’s original engineering magic, which has sadly been diluted in most of the automakers’ more recent models.

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If you are considering the purchase of a gently-used older car — perhaps something like the 51k-mile Mercedes-Benz S-class pictured above, which originally stickered for sixty grand but recently sold on eBay for just $5300, or even just a practical family hauler that you plan to drive until the wheels fall off — congratulations. You are well on your way to eliminating from your budget the costliest of all car ownership expenses.

However, there’s more to buying an older car than just forking over some cash and autographing the title. While you won’t be signing up for staggering new car payments or steep depreciation, you will have to navigate a few other pitfalls inherent to a taking on a second-hand vehicle.

So before you click Buy It Now on that oh-so-tempting auction, take a moment to consider these five important — and perhaps surprising — guidelines. They will help to ensure that you end up with a car which is not only cheap to acquire but also a joy to own and drive for many years to come.

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The ever-increasing mania and resulting skyrocketing values of air-cooled Porsche 911s have put those cars way out of reach for most buyers. Meanwhile, prices for the 996 generation, the first 911 with a water-cooled engine, have languished, in part because the prevailing wisdom among Porsche collectors is that the sun rises and sets only on the air-cooled cars.

Values are depressed, too, because of a known design flaw in the standard 996 engine that can, if not attended to, lead to a catastrophic failure, costing tens of thousands to repair. While this understandably gives most buyers pause, the truth is that a preemptive fix is readily available — and, even better, that many 996 examples on the market today have already had it applied.

This is all great news for the more practical enthusiast who wants to get in on the all-around goodness of Porsche’s iconic and entertaining sports car but without breaking the bank.

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Buying a used car is not only the best way to get the most car for your money; it also helps you dodge a massive hit from depreciation. And, in some cases, older models are actually better than newer ones.

However, no matter how well you do your research or how great an example you find, a used car is a complex machine with pieces that, after five or ten (or more) years on the road, are sometimes going to break.

Auto Repair

That’s why you should make identifying a great local mechanic the very first step in your used car buying process.

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