Buying a used car can either be a great way to save money and get a great car or can be a very quick way to waste thousands of dollars on a hunk of junk essentially. Although a vehicle may appear clean and well cared for, that doesn’t mean it is mechanically sound.
At the same time, a car that looks/is old, and rusty may surprisingly be a good choice for a budget car that will run for many more years to come. So, how can you tell if that used car is worth buying or not? Follow this checklist of six things to make sure the used car your buying really is a good deal.
The first thing to consider before buying a used car is to do a little research. Let’s assume you’re interested in a specific type of car, and only certain metrics matter to you. If you care more regarding the gas mileage, then you do the “coolness” factor, then look into cars with good gas mileage. At the same time, carry out some research on the most reliable brands and which years to avoid.
Taking into account what you’ve learned, try to see if your budget can match any of those options. If it doesn’t, then consider an older car, or you may need to make some sacrifices. Either way, make sure you put in some work behind your research.
Now that you’ve found the specific type of used car you want (could be multiple types), it’s time to find local offers. It’s still a great choice to research to find used vehicles if you know how to navigate the used car industry well. Start off by listing your local options and compare those to fair pricing tools on websites. They also give a good metric for how much you should be paying for a car based upon age, condition, miles, and accessories. Now that you have a car model, fair price in mind, and have local options, it’s time to test!
Get it inspected.
Finally, have the car inspected by a trusted mechanic. In most cases, you’ll need to pay $20 or so for the inspection, but it’s worth it. A mechanic will do a full body and mechanical inspection and report back if anything is amiss. This is also nice because the mechanic is a third party, and his business runs on fixing cars. So, the mechanic will be oriented towards finding something wrong to fix. That means a more thorough and honest inspection. In some cases, used car dealers will also include extras, try to look for used cars with warranty.
Take it for a test drive.
Your first question to the seller must be, “can I test drive it?”. This is highly important, considering it’s rather easy to make a car look clean and mechanically sound. However, a test drive will quickly reveal whether the vehicle is in good working condition or not. If you notice anything weird, like a lacklustre engine, shaky steering wheel, strong gas smell, or other problems, then something major may be wrong with the car.
Either way, use this time to get a feel for what it would be like to own and drive this car. Aside from the mechanical aspects, is this a car you could see yourself driving? Does it have enough space? Does it feel safe enough? Will it do everything you need it to?
Pull the CarFax.
Much like a person has a credit report/history, every car has a CarFax. This is tied to the car’s specific VIN (vehicle identification number). Using the VIN, you can look up the car and check its history before buying it. In fact, this is almost a necessity.
Avoid Prior Salvages
In some states, for example, if a car has a prior salvage title, then you cannot license that car unless inspected by the state.