It’s time: The car that took you from place to place for so many years, the one that’s been part of your life for as long as you can remember, just collapsed into a pile of rust and dirt in your driveway. Okay, maybe that’s overstating things, but it’s time to replace it.

New or used? Or, as the marketing folks like to call them, “pre-owned”?

There are good arguments for both. New is, well, new. No one’s ever been behind the wheel. The seat hasn’t formed around someone else’s keister. And there’s that new car smell.

But new cars cost… a lot. And they come with a lot of additional expenses, including higher insurance premiums. And, five minutes after you get a new car off the lot, it’ll lose about 20% of its value… or more.

Used costs less, and the insurance will probably be cheaper. But aren’t you just taking on someone else’s problems?

Not necessarily. Today’s cars have a lot more life in them than the cars of yesteryear: A three-year-old car with 50,000 miles on it may just be broken in. And the savings may well be worth the potential repairs.

But how can you be sure? How do you know whether you’re getting a great deal or someone else’s troubles?

Take it to your nearby Cottman center — before you buy it — and ask them for a pre-purchase inspection. That’s all you need to say: The technicians there will know exactly what to check to provide you with a thorough list of anything you need to consider… before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars for the car.

They’ll check all the normal wearing items, such as tires, brakes, shocks, and so on. And they’ll check under the hood to make sure the hoses and belts are in good shape.

They’ll examine every inch of the car, to find anything that’s beginning to show signs of wear, and they’ll write up a list of anything you’ll need to consider fixing right away, and anything that’ll be coming down the pike in the near future.

In some cases they may tell you to simply walk away: The car shows signs of serious damage or tampering that could cost you a bundle in the days ahead.

If the technicians at your local Cottman tell you the car’s okay, you can buy it with confidence. And you can brag to your friends about how much you saved over buying the new model.