There are many benefits to buying a used car:
- Lower price tags
- Lower, slower depreciation
- Decreased sales tax amounts
- No useless extra parts and technology
- Cheaper but effective features
- No dealer hassles and fewer crazy fees
- Your choice of vehicle condition and what works for you
These are all very good reasons to think about buying a used vehicle. But we know that this also comes with some anxiety – what exactly are you buying and getting yourself into?
Risks of Buying a Used Car
Used vehicles come with risks of the unknown. Were they maintained well? Are there issues that the average person cannot see with the naked eye? What types of issues could pop up? Are you buying from a different state? Does it come with any type of warranty or even a limited warranty? When there is no warranty, the buyer is immediately assuming all the risk in the event of a breakdown or major mechanical issue. This could lead to some costly auto repairs down the road.
Considerations When Buying a Used Car
There is a LOT to consider before buying a used vehicle. Some things you, as the buyer, can inspect yourself. Others take a more professional decision. Here are some things to consider:
- Inspect the vehicle’s exterior AND interior; check for scratches, dents and rust (in the wheel wells too). Make sure body panels line up evenly, open and close the doors, trunk, and hood. Inspect the seating and don’t be afraid to sit in the car. Check the carpet, floor mats and see what the interior smells like. Make sure the lights, horn, and wipers work. You’ll also want to check the radio or stereo system, and technology controls or other instruments.
- Do your homework. Research the reliability record of the type of vehicle and then the vehicle records. Get the VIN and check the history.
- Read the window sticker. Certain information is required, such as whether the vehicle is being sold “as is” or with a warranty, and what percentage of repair costs (if any) the dealer is obligated to pay.
- Check the glass for cracks or pocked areas. Cracks in the windshield will worsen and could become a costly repair down the road.
- The suspension should allow each corner of the car to bounce up and down (once). If you feel play in it or hear a clunking or ticking sound, the wheel bearings or suspension joints may be shot.
- Check the tires. Be wary of a low-mileage vehicle with new tires. Hopefully, the odometer has not been rolled back. All four tires should be the same. Treadwear should be even and ask if the tires have been routinely rotated. Preventative maintenance is essential. Tires will also tell you the driving habits of the previous owner. Examine the sidewalls for scuffing, cracks, or bulges, and look on the edge of each rim for dents or cracks.
- Under the hood, engine-related components should be inspected by your trusted auto repair shop. They should be looking at the condition of the engine bay. Looking for a battery covered with corrosion, or wires and hoses hanging loose. Rubber hoses and belts should be firm and supple, not rock-hard, cracked, or mushy. Fluids should be at their proper levels and the correct colors, sans odor. Check the condition of the radiator and the battery.
- Take it for a test drive! (Make sure no dashboard warning lights are on.) Listen for irregular sounds and smells.
- Think about the current mileage and what you’ll need out of the vehicle, as well as what types of routine maintenance and repair services are required around that mileage. The type of mileage it had (highway vs. city) also could make a difference in the condition of the car. Low-mileage used cars can certainly be appealing, but it doesn’t necessarily make them a great deal. It could mean less wear and tear, but it could also mean it sat around.
- Check for leaks!
- Determine a fair price and one that works for your budget ahead of time and stick to it.
- Consider a certified pre-owned vehicle.
- Don’t rush to a decision.
Before You Buy
A pre-purchase inspection is an affordable way to detect issues that you did not see. This professional inspection is well worth avoiding buying a car with major repair needs. It may seem crazy to spend money on a vehicle you don’t yet own, but this inspection could help prevent costly issues or help to negotiate the price down. If you’re serious about a specific vehicle, then it is definitely worth the peace of mind you will get.
Our pre-purchase inspection should be part of your planning process. Our mechanics are qualified to determine any cosmetic, mechanical or safety concerns, and we will walk you through our recommendations and findings. Uncovering existing conditions or revealing maintenance shortcomings could protect your safety and your wallet in the future.