Buying a used car may be a smart financial decision, but how do you avoid ending up with a lemon? There are so many unknowns; like how the previous owners drove, and if they kept up on preventative maintenance. We’ve put together a few tips and things to look for when purchasing a used car, so you’ll never end up paying more for repairs in the long run.
- Check to make sure the price seems fair. There are many sites out there that will let you look up the average price of the car you plan to buy. Look at sites like www.kbb.com and www.cargurus.com to get an idea on the price of your particular car.
- Read owner reviews of the car. When you’re looking up reviews, make sure you’re looking for the exact year, make, and model of the car you plan to buy. Get a good sense of what the car’s flaws are, and what it’s like to own that particular car long-term. Look up vehicles crash-test scores and safety ratings also.
- Check to see if the vehicle’s been recalled. Check the National Highway Traffic Administration’s database of recalls. If the vehicle you want is on the list, don’t buy until the seller can prove the recall issue has been fixed. According to Carfax, more than 3.5 million used cars were listed for sale in 2013 with safety related issues that hadn’t been fixed.
- Ask for the vehicle’s identification number (VIN) and run a vehicle history report. A few companies that offer these services are Carfax and Autocheck. The report will tell you things such as if a vehicle has been in an accident or had flood damage, assuming those incidents were reported. The report will also tell you if a car’s odometer has been rolled back or if the car has a salvage title (which means it was considered a total loss by the insurance company).
- Carefully inspect the car’s condition. Do this step when you’re actually there in person, so you don’t miss anything. Be cautious if you find signs of rust or other serious wear and tear, as this could mean the previous owner(s) didn’t keep up with regular maintenance.
- Ask to see the vehicle’s title and maintenance records. This will give you a good idea how well the car has been cared for. Avoid buying a car that’s been in a bad accident or had major repairs like an engine overhaul or transmission rebuild.
- Take it out for a test drive. Take this car out on a thorough test drive on small roads and highways to see how the car performs on freeway entrance ramps and at high speeds. Turn off the radio and listen for weird noises. Taking this car on a longer drive will also help you decide if this car will be comfortable to sit in for longer periods of time. While driving it, compare it to your current car.
- When you’re there face-to-face with a private seller, ask about the car and why they are selling. Ask questions like: Why are you selling? Who regularly drove this car? What bothers you about this car? How many previous owners it has had?