Every time you drive off the lot with a new vehicle, you run the risk of it being a lemon. With new cars, that’s more of an annoyance than a concern, since you have warranties and service plans to back you up if something goes wrong. Buying a used car, on the other hand, can make you feel like you’re playing the tables in Vegas. So how do you take some of that risk, and stress, out of the buying process? Our auto gurus from across the globe shared some universal tips on how to buy a used car without losing your sanity.
Matthew Robbs is the founder of EduAutos. A website designed to help people with their vehicles and vehicle-related questions.
Only Buy from a Well-Rated Dealer
Rather than searching for the cheapest deal first, it would be better to search for the best used car dealership instead. You will have far more peace of mind buying from a dealership that has glowing reviews than a fly-by-night company that no one has good things to say about.
Another way to have peace of mind when buying a used car is to ALWAYS get an inspection done by a qualified mechanic. I’m not talking about having your friend who knows a couple things about cars taking a look at it. Instead, spend the money to take it to a qualified person who can tell you everything wrong with that model in general as well as that specific car.
If you have a friend or family member who works as a mechanic then that is certainly best as they are likely not to charge you for a quick look at the car. However it’s better to pay a bit of money to a mechanic to check out the car if it helps you avoid a lemon or losing thousands because of a bad purchase.
Check Prior History, Financing
When buying a used car, the most important thing is to check the prior history of the car. Always where possible look for receipts and proof to show work that the vehicle has had done.
It is also possible to search online to show previous inspections or MOTs that the vehicle has had and whether the vehicle has failed in the past for any particular issue. If so, ask to see proof that the work was carried out to rectify the issue.
There are several general maintenance items that you can check yourself when purchasing a used vehicle. Always check the tires to ensure that they have a good amount of tread left on them. If the tread is low, you will need to buy new tires which can be costly. You can use this to negotiate a lower price with the seller.
Another thing to check is the engine fluids and the engine oil. Pull out the engine oil dipstick and ensure that the oil is within the mix and max range. Also, check the color of the oil. If it is a very deep and dark black, this indicates that it hasn’t had an oil change in a long time and the car will need an oil change.
If you see any shiny flakes or metal shavings in the oil, this is a sign of serious engine wear and failure and I would not recommend purchasing the vehicle.
Make sure to check that the coolant level is also within the acceptable limits.
Check the brake disks and the pads to ensure they are in good condition. If the disks or pads are wearing thin, these will need to be replaced and the cost can be used to negotiate a better price if you are happy to have the work done.
The final check is to do a finance check. This is to ensure that the vehicle is not stolen and that the car has no outstanding financing on it from the previous owner. This normally costs around $10 and by doing this check, you will ensure that you will not be chased for payments. If the car does have outstanding financing, ensure that the seller pays it before purchasing the vehicle.
Look for Used Cars that Come with Warranties, Service Plans
If you’re especially worried about getting a reliable used car that’s going to last you for a while yet, it can be worth it to seek out less-used cars from big, established local dealerships. These kinds of cars often come with warranties and service plans, meaning that even if there is an issue with your purchase, they’ll be in a position to help you with it.
If you don’t have the luxury of being able to afford this kind of used car buying experience, a basic step you can take is looking up the car’s title. This will provide you with an ownership record as well as information about major insurance claims involving the vehicle.
Do a test drive and perform a self-inspection. Never buy a used car without checking it out yourself first! Meet with the seller, and make sure to check everything, from the tires, to the paint job, seats, dashboard, and even radio. They should disclose everything with you, and if you find that they didn’t, then you can either negotiate the price further down or find a different car and seller. Always do a test drive so that you can get a feel for the car and inspect it for any malfunctions that you can only see when driving.
Get a Pre-purchase Inspection from a Fully-Qualified Muchanic
One area to consider when buying a used car is to get a pre-purchase inspection from a fully qualified mechanic or examiner.
This gives you full peace of mind knowing that a specialist is looking over the vehicle you are interested in. You will also receive a fully comprehensive written or digital report showcasing the quality of the vehicle.
You will be able to see the mechanic’s personal opinion, notes, and if there are going to be any future issues with the vehicle. The only thing pre-purchase inspections cannot tell you is the value of the vehicle. However, you can decide that from the report.
Even for newer vehicles, pre-purchase inspections include computer diagnostics to ensure the internal systems of the vehicle are running correctly.
I would say this is the most simple and effective way of getting peace of mind when you are buying a used car.
Do Your Homework, Test Drive the Cars You Like
Get to Know the Dealership
It can never be a good idea to buy a car without a proper understanding of the dealership. You should check reviews on the dealership in order to be sure of their accuracy. You can get those reviews on third-party websites.. Also, you should browse the dealer’s website to get a better understanding of what facilities they offer and how well they operate.
It is more convenient to finance through the dealership, but it can cause huge stress in the whole buying process. It is always better to go through financing with a bank, credit union, or any other reliable lender. By doing so, you can expect to enjoy a lower rate. Also, you will be able to easily estimate what you can really afford.
Test Drive a Number of Cars
You can get to know about the features and specifications through some online research, but it will not help you to understand if a car particularly fits your needs. Remember, real experience matters the most! This is why you should create a list of cars and test drive all of them. It will help you to be more confident and satisfied with your decision
Take a Close Look at the Title, Use a Mechanic
You have nothing to fear from even the shadiest of car dealerships as long as you have two key tools at your disposal: the ability to look up a car’s title information, which you can do with a bit of googling if the dealership doesn’t offer this information to you, and an outside mechanic you can trust to look the car over for you. Both of these are reliable sources of outside information that you can use to determine if a car is actually as nice as the dealer is undoubtedly making it seem.
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