Buying a Used Car? 5 Things Smart Owners Do

October 20, 2021
Advice, Automotive

If you’re like most people, you probably rely on a quality vehicle just about every day. You need a vehicle to perform well and safely so you can shuttle to and from work, run errands, and attend to personal needs throughout the day and week. Because a vehicle is one of the most significant purchases you’ll make, you want to be certain you are getting your money’s worth. It’s vital to choose something that will last and meet your needs but also a model that is in your price range.

For many people, used cars make a lot of sense. You will pay less than you would for a newer model of its make. However, there are also challenges that used vehicles present that current-year models do not pose. If you’re a smart, savvy shopper, you can end up with a vehicle that you feel good about, and that will serve you well for miles and years to come.

Read Reviews

Before you get too serious about purchasing a used car, you’ll want to find out as much as you can about it. A car might look nice on paper, but it’s helpful to see what people who own the particular model think about it. You can also glean a lot of information from reputable sites such as Carchex reviews about any number of vehicles.

This site and others like it will provide an in-depth look at the pros and cons of the car you have in mind. Reviews will show what people who drive a certain car like and dislike about it. A review may also discuss safety concerns, crash-test ratings, engine power, interior features, and technology components.

See It In Person

Whether you are buying a used car from a dealership or a private seller, you’ll want to see it with your own eyes first. Any seller can craft a creative advertisement or take photos to portray the car in a good light. In fact, a seller should do everything possible to highlight the positive aspects of the vehicle. But you should never buy a used car until you can inspect it.

Start with the exterior. Keep an eye out for major cosmetic damage to the body. Minor dents and dings may not be a big concern. Be cautious, though, when you see exterior flaws. Such damage could indicate that the car has been in an accident. If the exterior is banged up significantly, it’s probably not worth the trouble to look at the vehicle any longer.

You may not be as worried if the interior is not in great condition. You do want to be comfortable in your car, though. Be on the lookout for stains on the upholstery, damaged seats, or any knobs that aren’t working right.

Take It for a Test Drive

This step is critical, and it’s one that some people in a hurry may skip. After researching the car and looking it over, you may think it fits the profile of the right option for you. Don’t sign any paperwork and drive it home until you’ve taken it for a test drive. Dealerships are willing to let you do this, and private sellers should be as well.

On your test drive, spend time on city streets and the highway, if possible. Pay attention to any odd noises, such as squeaking or grinding brakes. You’ll also want to note any hissing, banging, or whining noises from the engine. Evaluate how well the car handles the road, including when you turn and accelerate. Check the braking and changing of gears. A test drive can be a critical test of whether this car is right for you.

Have a Mechanic Look at It

In some cases, it may be wise to let an unbiased mechanic inspect the used car. This wouldn’t be someone employed by the dealership, nor would it be a family member or friend of yours. An independent mechanic can verify the fitness of the vehicle for the road or identify any mechanical concerns. A used car doesn’t have to be in pristine shape for you to feel comfortable about buying it. But you also don’t want to be saddled with problems from day one.

Compare the Price Vs. the Age

This can get tricky, but you don’t want to end up paying too much for a car that’s going to be in the shop a few weeks or months down the road. Often, your best bet is to choose a vehicle three or four years old. This way, the price is more likely to be within your budget, but it still should perform well.

If your budget is on the low end, weigh how much you are able and willing to pay for the inevitable repairs that will be coming. If you have a more flexible budget, a used car just a few years old may be a good option.

Buying a used car can be stressful. When you follow these tips, you can have peace of mind that you will get a reliable car that won’t eat away at your budget.