What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

You can save some good money by purchasing a used car rather than a new one. According to the recent Experian report on the State of the Automotive Finance Market, vehicle buyers incur an average monthly payment of $525 for a used car, which is nearly $200 lower compared to the amount of a new car.

However, since used cars feature unknown pasts, paying attention to every detail is vital to avoid paying more than the car’s worth or buying a damaged vehicle. Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a used car.

Get a Vehicle History Report

The best starting point for online car shopping is to look at the vehicle history report. You can get insights into the past of a used car by running its vehicle identification number (VIN) via platforms like CARFAX, AutoCheck, and Kelley Blue Book (KBB).

The VIN unlocks details about the car’s ownership history, title information, history of accidents, as well as car servicing and maintenance information. You can even tell if the vehicle has ever been stolen or auctioned.

You can also enter the VIN on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) page to confirm if any safety recalls by the manufacturer exist on the vehicle. Although most car dealerships provide free vehicle history reports, you can still buy one from a trusted source.

Pay More Attention to Certified Pre-owned Vehicles

By buying a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) car, you get an additional level of quality assurance. In most cases, vehicles that meet the manufacturer’s CPO program standards are usually lease-return cars featuring low mileage, proper reconditioning, and all routine maintenance performed. Many dealers provide excellent warranties for these vehicles.

Give the Car a Proper Inspection for Issues

Doing a quick, hands-on visual inspection before purchasing a used car is crucial. Check the vehicle body for imperfections like dents, gaps, or discolored paint. Confirm if the body panels evenly line up. If not, the car might have gotten into an accident but didn’t undergo proper repair.

Try to open and close the trunk, doors, and hood to check how easily they move. At the same time, inspect for paint overspray on the inner side of the doors, trunk, and hood to ensure the color matches all parts. Any mismatched paint or overspray can signify car repainting or repair.

In addition, examine the car interior for signs of wear and tear, especially in the upholstery. Check the floor mats and carpet for water damage or leaks if you notice a musty smell inside the car.

Research Used Car Rankings and Ratings

You can rely on sites like the US News and World Report, and Consumer Reports to get extensive car reviews and rankings with the accurate state and potential issues of the used car model and make you intend to buy. Through this, you will determine if the vehicle has held onto its value over time.

Take the Vehicle for a Test Drive

You must take it for a test drive before you can fully tell if the car is in perfect condition. Before you start the test drive, consider switching the key to the accessory position while the engine is still off. All the dashboard warning lights should go on.

As you ignite the engine, listen for clicking, tapping, or other unusual sounds from the brakes, engine, or transmission, and get the mechanic to check the issue. While on the test drive, keep your ears and eyes open and take your ride to different road types. Consider driving at varying speeds to confirm if the transmission moves smoothly.

Determine a Fair Car Purchase Price

To ensure you pay for the car’s worth, obtain price quotes for the same model, make, and year from different online car dealerships or private sellers to compare. Online tools, like the National Automobile Dealers Association Guides and Kelly Blue Book (KBB), can make your price comparison process easy and enable you to avoid car buying scams. While the car mileage and condition may play a key role in price, comparing different prices can give you a ballpark figure of the car’s market value. 

Knowing what to consider and look for when shopping for a used car can help you make informed decisions. Don’t rush into buying without proper knowledge. Extensively research to identify your options and find a used vehicle that meets your budget and needs.

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