What to Look for When Buying a Used Car
Buying a car can be an exciting, albeit overwhelming, process. Are you getting the right bang for your buck? What features are important to you? Are you buying from a trusted seller? There are probably many factors that will go into your decision, and if you’re buying a pre-owned, or used, car, the questions only get more complicated. Has it been in any accidents? Has its safety been compromised in any way? Overlooking any one of these questions could spell out trouble in the future. Don’t make the mistake of rushing through the process because you need a car as soon as possible. Asking the right questions and looking for the right things can save you time, money, and heartache down the road.
The first thing you want to ask yourself when shopping around for a used car is if you are buying from a trusted seller. If you’re buying a used car, chances are, it’s not coming from the dealership at which it was originally sold. You want to be sure the dealer has an accurate and verified report of the car’s history. Unfortunately, there’s no way anyone can be 100% sure of the condition or history of any car. Of course, you can check for physical “symptoms,” i.e. signs of welding that hint at a covered-up accident, mismatched paint that may point towards a door replacement, etc. The bottom line is, the salesman can talk about the structural integrity of a car all day, but he really doesn’t personally know what the car has been through.
If buying from a personal seller, it can be even more challenging to determine if you’re getting the “full scoop” about the vehicle. This is where you’ll have to use your best judgment and go with your gut feeling about the car’s previous owners. Make sure the car has a title and isn’t stolen property, and request that the seller obtains a Carfax report to check on its accident history, if any.
When it comes to price, you’ll want to consider factors like the year the car was made in, the miles the car has, and the obvious wear and tear of the seats, steering wheel, dashboard, and features like door handles, knobs, and buttons. On the exterior, check for signs of rust, calcium build up, oil leaks, or other signs of neglect or aging. All of these factors should be considered and addressed before agreeing on the sale of the car. While it may be a good point of negotiation, you may also want to request that the seller has those fixed or looked at by a mechanic before agreeing to anything. In some cases, review of a seemingly small problem may give way to larger, more serious, and pricier underlying problems that could add to the total cost of the car when all is said and done. Avoid any big surprises by having it all looked at beforehand—better safe than sorry.
A clean Carfax, good inspection, and trusted seller are a great start to finding the right car, but there are other things that can affect your satisfaction with your new purchase. For example, you may want to consider that some car models have more expensive parts than others. If anything needs to be replaced in the next 3-6 months to a year, are you prepared to fork out those extra costs? It may be wiser to go with a safer alternative with parts that are more easily obtainable and even less expensive.
All in all, your personal judgment may be your greatest weapon against being swindled out of your time and money. Taking the extra precautions and educating yourself on what to expect when buying your first used car can mean the difference between a satisfied purchase and buyer’s remorse. Any more suggestions for what to look for when buying a used car? Let us know in the comments below!