Buying a Used Car? 6 Things to Look Out For

The individual who first coined the Latin phrase “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) had probably just bought a busted chariot. Seriously though, it’s really good advice when you’re considering the purchase of pre-owned transportation. Here are six things to look out for when buying a used car.

Assess Your Needs

Before charging out and jumping into the first appealing thing you see, take some time to consider your lifestyle and make sure the car you buy serves it well. Do you have children? Do you have an older parent for whom you’re caring? Do you like to camp, hunt, fish or etc.? Do you have a dog? Will you use this car to commute back and forth to work every day? You must answer these questions honestly to be certain the car you buy enhances your life rather than hampers it.

Once you figure out what you need, spend some time researching cars in the category to get an idea of how they’re equipped, their reputation for reliability and cost of repairs, as well as what they typically cost to buy. Then start looking for the newest, most reliable and least-expensive-to-repair model you can comfortably afford.

Mind Your Budget

One of the most difficult things to do when buying a car is sticking to your budget. You’ll always see something just a bit more expensive than you’d planned. Human nature will press you to rationalize the purchase and go with your impulse—don’t fall for it. If you stretch your budget to get the car, you might be short of cash when (not if) the car needs service and/or repairs. While you’re budgeting, keep in mind the ancillary costs of owning the car. You’ll pay for fuel, registration, sales tax, and insurance. Before you buy, get some car insurance comparison quotes to find the best possible rate for the car you have in mind.

Inspect Carefully

Always take someone with you to look at a used car. You’ll need someone you can trust to verify the lights and signals are working when you test them. Plus, it’s good to have someone along to watch your back because sadly, not everyone is trustworthy. Take your time and examine diligently. Look for signs of poorly repaired crash damage, excessive wear and tear on interior components, rust, worn tires, dirty oil and smoke on startup. Check the condition of the pedals. If the car is being advertised as low mileage and the pedals show excessive wear, you’ll know you’re dealing with an unscrupulous individual.

Listen While You Test Drive

Once you’ve verified the radio works, shut it off and listen to the car as you test drive it. Do you hear squeaks, rattles, grinding sounds or other untoward noises? Most cars are pretty quiet. Yes, you’ll hear more road noise in lower priced autos and engine noise in performance-oriented models, but squeaks and rattles are a car’s way of telling you it has hidden problems. When you brake, does the car pull to the left or the right? Take your hands off the steering wheel while traveling straight on a level road; does it veer off to one side or the other?

Order A History Report

Once you’ve settled on a car and you’re ready to buy it, order a history report based on the vehicle identification number (VIN). This will tell you if the car has been serviced regularly and disclose major accidents. You’ll learn how many owners are in the car’s past, where it was originally sold and everywhere it has been registered. The report will also disclose whether the car’s title is clean or salvage. As an example, if you’re looking at a 2005 or a 2006 model originally sold in New Orleans, you might be about to purchase a flood-damaged “Katrina Car,” but you’d never know without a history report.

Get A Pre-Purchase Inspection

If the car still holds your interest after all of the above, get it inspected by an independent mechanic of your choosing who specializes in the make and model you’re considering before you make an offer. Yes, it could cost you a couple hundred bucks or so, but it will also save you from buying a car with all sorts of problems into which you’ll need to dump a bunch of money to get it repaired.

If you adhere to these six things to look out for when you’re buying a used car, you’ll wind up with one perfectly suited to your needs and your budget.