Buying a used car is not always an easy task. Your goal should be to find the best deal on a reliable vehicle that won’t immediately start racking up unexpected maintenance or repair costs. To help ensure the quality of what you’re getting in a used car, we’ve put together a few of the basics you should be inspecting.
Look for Evidence of Damage or Accidents
The first thing you will want to do is assess the exterior of the vehicle to determine if it’s in good condition. Make sure you don’t find any kind of structural damage that could affect the vehicle’s performance. Even if you’re somewhat inexperienced with cars and auto repairs, it’s important to do a basic inspection:
- Listen for any abnormal sounds during a test drive.
- Carefully examine the paint job for signs someone may have painted over rust.
- Check the headlights and floorboards for signs of moisture, which could indicate the car has been in a flood.
Check the Engine and Tires
If it’s possible, have a qualified mechanic check the engine of the used car to make sure you’re not buying a lemon. If a seller is skeptical about letting a mechanic look at the vehicle, this could potentially be a red flag. A car that needs an engine replaced could ultimately cost you more in time and money than it’s worth.
Tires are also important to check and can more easily be inspected without a mechanic. If the tread on the tires is excessively worn down, you may need to spend money to purchase a new set, which could set you back hundreds of dollars.
Find Out About Spare Parts
With a used car, expect that some of its parts eventually need to be replaced simply through normal wear and tear. It’s therefore important that you’re able to find these parts on the market. Try to opt for a vehicle that has accessible spare parts that are easily replaceable when necessary.
Check the Vehicle’s Records and Documents
Every car has a unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that can help you find out about its history. Online services, such as CARFAX, use the VIN to give you a detailed report on the car’s records. This could let you know if a car has been totaled or how many times it has been in a collision.
Also be on the lookout for cars with “salvage titles,” meaning they were previously totaled in an accident, fire, or flood. Although repaired, these cars might still have hidden issues that have gone unnoticed. Check the full vehicle history report, if available, along with any service records, so you know exactly what you’re getting when you buy a used car. Finally, to the fullest extent possible, verify the validity of the vehicle’s documents before finalizing any purchase. If the car is from a dealership and labeled as “certified pre-owned,” make sure any guarantees are in writing, and also make sure you know what may be covered under any warranties.
Keep these tips in mind for your next used auto purchase. A little bit of due diligence and thorough inspection could go a long way toward saving you money on maintenance costs in the future.