Buying a car is no joke. It is a purchase where you’ll be spending thousands of dollars on something you will be using for quite some time. In short, purchasing a car, even if a used one, is an important, considerably costly decision wherein you must exercise a great deal of caution before proceeding with a final purchase. As with all decisions, there are some factors to consider. In this post, we break down the important details to consider, as well as tips and tricks from some of the leading experts in the car industry regarding what to look for when buying a used car:
Research before buying
In most cases, you’ll already have a car in mind that you want to purchase. Before even going out to canvass prices from dealers, make sure to do research on the model you are eyeing first. Research on reputable car-related sources online and join automotive online communities and see what people have to say about the car you want to buy. Online communities are a great source of real feedback from individuals who already own the car you want. Pay attention to the virtues and especially the flaws or issues that people mention about the car make and model that you want. Researching before you buy will also ensure that you’ll be asking the right questions and paying attention to the correct details once at the dealership.
Conduct specific and thorough inspection
Once at the dealership, make sure to thoroughly inspect the car that you are looking into buying.
- Pay attention to the car’s title. This can be a ‘clear’ title, ‘rebuilt’, ‘salvaged’, etc. It is generally a good rule to steer clear from salvaged cars, dismantled, and quite obviously, junk titled cars. These are usually cars that have a history of having sustained a 75% damage beyond the original value, something which could potentially be a problem down the line.
- Make a note of the VIN. VIN or the Vehicle Identification Number, is important to note so you can view the vehicle’s history report at Carfax.com or CarProof.com
- Eyeball test. How does the car look, especially in natural/outside lighting? Outdoor settings can reveal flaws that are not immediately visible inside showrooms or photos.
- Engine condition inspection. How are the fluid levels? Are they in range? Is the oil from the dipstick brown against a white rag? (It shouldn’t be.) Is it milky? (it shouldn’t be either. This indicates coolant in the sump.) Is there an odor? (Worn out piston rings usually give a gas smell to the oil.) Are there metallic specs in the oil? This signals a serious engine problem. This follows for transmission fluid as well.
- Bring a friend. Asking a friend who knows cars better or having a mechanic inspect the car is a great way to ensure that you don’t miss a thing. Even if you are a seasoned car enthusiast, it is recommended that you have a mechanic inspect the car, especially underneath the vehicle, to avoid buyer’s remorse.
Conduct a test drive
It is imperative that you test-ride the car you want to buy, especially when it comes to used cars. This way you get a feel of how the car drives and it is also a good way to find out some potentially major flaws in the car (a knocking in the engine, banging from the suspension or if it still feels new or simply worn out. Major flaws when driving is one thing, minor flaws can serve as a deal-breaker as well as minor flaws when compounded can average into a car that you shouldn’t buy. You’ll be driving the car after the purchase, is this a car that you would be pleased to drive every day? When taking it out for a test drive, pay attention to:
- How it rides. Does it ride smoothly in low speeds? How about higher speeds? Try pushing it above 60 miles per hour during the test since some problems only reveal themselves at higher speeds. How does the front end feel? Is there a detectable shaking or vibrating going on?
- How it accelerates. Pay attention to any odd noises that manifests when you accelerate. How is the transmission shift? (Should be smooth.)
- How it brakes. How does the pedal feel? (It shouldn’t be squishy.) How does the vehicle react when you put on the brakes? Does it pull to one side or the other? (It shouldn’t do that either.)
- How it steers. Does the steering wheel vibrate?
- How it tests the second time around. Take your time with inspection and thorough testing. There might be some issues that do not present itself on the first run.
Remember that when buying a used car, you came to make a business transaction and exchange your hard-earned money for a car; at the same time, your dealer wants to make a sale so it’s best to concentrate on facts and details since dealers might try to appeal to your emotions and impulses. Do your research well prior and be thorough with inspection; definitely do not quickly jump into buying. Take your time to make a decision. Weigh your options, compare and contrast. If you feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the process, take a break. It’s good to have fresh eyes and someone else (who isn’t the dealer) to give their two-cents. The important thing is to arrive at a decision where you will be happy and have no regrets about your purchase. Don’t worry about missing a great bargain either. A bargain will always be around, but you can’t easily take back a car that you’ve already bought.