Q: I"m buying a used car. Should I have it inspected by an auto repair shop first? Should I purchase an extended warranty if it is available?
A: In answer to your first question, a resounding yes!
Used vehicles may well have come from other areas of the country where flooding occurred and may have been under water. A car can be cleaned up well enough to mask that fact.
Even before the inspection, the first step is to check the VIN number through Carfax.com. You will find out whether the car title shows it was ever totaled.
Be aware, though, that cars from Texas will not show previous titles, so a totaled condition may not register.
Beyond Carfax, it is wise to arrange for a vehicle inspection by a competent repair shop.
Not all inspections are going to be the same, however, so it is recommended that you ask what the inspection will include.
A thorough inspection usually takes up to two hours and should include examining for interior water damage and evaluating the condition of the battery, brakes, tires, fluids, etc.
Regarding extended warranties: They can be good, but most do not pay for themselves. The coverage may include extreme restrictions and may not cover most breakdowns. Some policies require that you return to the facility that sold the policy for repairs, limiting your choices. I have not seen a policy that covers any kind of diagnostics to determine the cause of problems.
Generally speaking, the cost of the policy far exceeds the cost of needed repairs.