Buying a used car is a tender situation. It takes some work to find the best match. Some people trap themselves into situations where they feel the need to purchase sooner than later, which can have consequences. It is best to look a car up and down and make sure it’s what you really want. Otherwise, you will live with a lot of headaches and more repair bills that make the car way more expensive than it should be.
Ask some basic questions before you even start shopping. What is the primary purpose of the car? Narrow down the choices of the many makes and models based on intended use. Highway driving with low gas mileage, off road access or carting kids to school are the beginnings of where to explore your biggest needs.
How much can you reasonably afford? This is significant in getting the most for your money. If you have a low budget, you will need to be more strict in what you seek out in quality and put in more effort in going over the car. In principle, the best value will be in purchasing a car that is two or three years old. A car has depreciated about half of it’s new price by the third year, while still retaining most new car features, and maintains a lot of integrity and reliability.
When looking into the quality, researching various makes and models past performance and reliability over time is a good first step. Generally, Honda and Toyotas continue to be the most car for the money. Consumer Reports has a subscription service of used car reliability that tracks various factors to determine which makes have the best histories and user satisfaction. For a little more digging, a similar free source may be available on line. The point is to know what has a history of holding up.
Safety and future cost savings are perhaps the biggest issues to consider. What features you need are based on when the car was made. The five major safety features in used cars are outlined in this video that you will want to consider as the bare essential basics. Beyond the types of seatbelts and airbags that will keep you and your passengers alive in dire situations, there are a few checks that you will want to study up on or find a mechanic you trust to go over thoroughly.
If the car is from a dealer, check the window sticker for whether it comes as is or has a warranty still attached. A car must specifically mention whether it is being sold as is, or it is implied there is a warranty covering defective parts. As part of your inspection tracking, either set up an appointment with a mechanic or take a knowledgeable friend to help double check the car. Check the car in the daytime to get the best looks and before any decisions are made, do an online vehicle history check.
Outside the car check the body condition thoroughly for scratches, dents and rust. Presence of any of these or other issues are not automatic disqualifiers, but they do help give negotiating power or may be an indicator of covered up damage. The suspension and wheel alignment is a major safety concern. Bad CV joints are not only dangerous, but a sign of costly future repairs.
Undercarriage dings may be indicative of past accidents and hidden structural repairs. The tires and brakes are another big concern when comparing upkeep versus the amount of miles. Tires can tell a story at a glance. A car with low mileage, but new tires or new brake pedals are immediate red flags. How worn the car is should match the number of miles. Also, uneven tread wear on the tires are an indicator that the driver hasn’t driven it very responsibly.
Inside the car are a lot of important comfort factors, but also a good many safety features to consider. Texting or phone calling while driving is a huge concern on today’s roads and potentially costly in terms of citations. Newer cars have been equipped with hands free devices and in board talking systems, though the verdict is not clearly in favor of hands free devices being safer. They may actually be more dangerous.
Check dashboard controls while the ignition is switched to accessory mode. This can be telling of electrical or engine problems. Elsewhere around the cabin, check the roof, the backseat and the trunk. This can let you in on potential leaks. Additionally, the odors in the upholstery can tell a story at a sniff.
Under the hood is the heart and soul of the car. Check for corrosive batteries, loose cables and how well they can hold a charge. Oil splatters and leaky fluids are a warning sign. The color and consistency of fluids can be varied, but those variations can let you know a lot about the condition of the engine, alerting to possible cracked blocks or bad gaskets. A car’s life is only as long as that of its engine. You will want yours to have been well cared for.
These checks will do wonders in extending the life of a car. They will keep you on the road longer and with maximal safety.