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6 Things to Look for When Buying a Used Car

Dealers may offer a full or limited warranty on all or some of a car’s systems or components. Most used car warranties are limited and their coverage varies. If you have problems that aren’t covered by a written warranty, see if there’s protection from one of these implied warranties. Implied warranty coverage can last as long as four years, although the length of the coverage varies from state to state.

Not checking the history of the car could lead to surprise expenses. Financing provides a loan and your approved amount sets an upper limit of your price range. Knowing your pre-approved financing options makes negotiating prices easier. If you’re buying a car from a dealership, they will likely offer you financing.

When inspecting a used European car, make sure to check the engine oil, transmission fluid, and the condition of the belts and hoses. A good indication of a healthy engine is if it starts easily and runs smoothly. Look for any signs of wear and tear, scratches, dents, and rust. Check the upholstery, dashboard, and carpets for any damage or stains. A well-maintained car will show minimal signs of wear and tear. “With financial stakes so high, it’s more important than ever to do careful research,” says Jake Fisher, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center.

You may choose to finance through a bank, credit union, or dealership. It’s advisable to get approval for a loan to determine your budget and negotiate with confidence. Additionally, inquire about the availability of extended warranties for the used car you intend to purchase. Extended warranties provide added peace of mind by covering potential repairs and maintenance costs beyond the initial warranty period. Another item worth checking out on your used car checklist is warranty coverage.

That will tell you how much money you can spend on a car. That is because you will have to pay interest for borrowing the money. The annual percentage rate tells you how much it costs you to borrow money for one year. It includes the interest rate and fees you pay the lender.

  • Ask the mechanic for a written report with a cost estimate for all necessary repairs.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule, which calls for routine oil changes, fluid inspections, and filter replacements at periodic intervals.
  • A high amount of wear probably indicates that the previous owner was hard on the brake system, so stay alert to potential issues.
  • “Seeing the car from underneath will show any damage that was not repaired,” he says.
  • If you don’t have a go-to technician, check out some online reviews to find a good option in your area.

Rates, terms and conditions are subject to change and may vary based on creditworthiness, qualifications, and collateral conditions. R/Cars is the largest automotive enthusiast community on the Internet. We’re Reddit’s central hub for vehicle-related discussion, industry news, reviews, projects, DIY guides, advice, stories, and more. The United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration has said that the average annual mileage of a vehicle is 14,263 miles. It means the average vehicle mileage should be around 70,000 miles after 5 years. This requires a lot of work, including posting ads, interacting with people, and doing test drives.

You can let go of minor scratches and dents but be wary of the bigger ones, vehicles with body rust are a big no. These will help you understand the situation the car might’ve been in. Also, keep an eye out for the electricals, everything should be in working condition, if anything is out of place, bargain.

These issues may require replacing the exhaust system which can cost over $2,000. Check to see if the vehicle rests properly on level ground. If the car leans to one side, it might indicate a binding shock absorber or strut, a bad spring or torsion bar, bent suspension parts, or even a twisted chassis.

Dress in old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and give the car a good going-over. Many states do not allow as-is sales on vehicles selling for more than a certain price. Understand that some private sellers might not want to let you test-drive the vehicle and/or have it inspected by a mechanic, so you’ll have to decide whether you are okay with that.

what to look for when buying a used car

If yes, ask about the extent of the damage, the cost of repairs, and who did the work. Don’t worry about minor scrapes, but think twice about a car that has been in a serious collision. Start broad and don’t interrupt—the seller could bring up something you wouldn’t have thought to ask about. Vehicle purchases can become emotional if you find a car you really, really want or you’ve been looking forward to purchasing for quite some time. Vehicles that qualify for manufacturer CPO programs are typically the best of the best. They’re often lease-return cars with low mileage and with all of their routine maintenance sorted out, and CPO programs typically offer excellent warranties.

But other defects can come as annoying and uneconomical surprises, such as weak air conditioning, blown speakers or missing pixels in displays. If you’re going to a shop for the first time, look for certificates or window decals from AAA or the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). AAA-certified garages must meet certain quality standards. The ASE grants certificates to mechanics who pass exams in any of eight areas of expertise. The ASE does not certify shops as a whole, but if 75 percent of the employees are ASE-certified, the shop can carry the seal.

  • Also, while low mileage is nice, it’s no guarantee of gentle care.
  • Look for obvious signs of wear and tear, such as rips in the upholstery or stains.
  • Examine the constant-velocity-joint boots, which are the round, black-rubber bellows at the ends of the axle shafts.
  • But if you’re buying from a private seller, you can buy a report yourself from a trusted source.
  • Before pulling onto the road, turn the steering wheel to the right and left to check for power steering.

Before you start looking for your dream car, set a clear budget to guide you through the rest of the process. Whatever your coverage needs, trust an insurance provider with more than 20 years of experience. Our helpful agents will shop around and work with you to find you the coverage you need at the price you can afford. Going too quickly through your used car checklist could make you overlook important issues that you might not want to handle later. A high amount of wear probably indicates that the previous owner was hard on the brake system, so stay alert to potential issues.

Test all of the switches and buttons to make sure everything works. Take a look at the odometer and verify that the readout matches the mileage listed by the seller, and check for any warning lights. On flat ground, check for frame damage by looking down at the car to make sure its doors, fenders, and lines are even. Make sure they not only work correctly but also that they display no signs of rust. When you have done your research and feel confident about a particular car or two, you’ll want to calculate your total monthly payment by getting insurance quotes. If the car is no longer covered by a warranty, some individuals choose to purchase an extended warranty.

Because of the possibility of consumer abuse, some states have banned “as is” car sales all together. Virginia is not one of these states and does allows “as is” car sales. For states that do permit “as is” car sales, the seller must provide disclosure documents and clearly state that no warranty is provided. You’ll want to get a feel for the brakes early on in your drive.

Shop around because different lenders offer different rates. Make sure you have your pre-approval or approval along with the monthly payments you can afford before you shop for your car. An auto loan calculator can help you determine what kind of loan term and interest rate will fit your budget.

This is particularly key for used cars because it can point to any potential problems a seller might not tell you. A car that was in an accident but not repaired well might pose some unwanted problems down the line for new owners, and it could even be dangerous to drive. Older used cars often have features that don’t work the way they are supposed to. It might not be a deal breaker — for example, if it’s a malfunctioning CD player.

what to look for when buying a used car

Whether you plan on taking out a bank loan or financing through the dealership, it’s important to keep your financing options in mind while you do your research. This shouldn’t be an issue when you’re buying a used car from a dealership, as the dealership now owns that car, but it never hurts to double-check. Yet buyers in the market for a used car still need to exercise caution when shopping. These vehicles need special attention to ensure their safety and prevent unpleasant surprises. In 2020, over 39 million used light vehicles sold in the United States, nearly three times the number of new vehicles sold that year.

Feel free to download, print, and fill out this used car checklist as you go car shopping, too. This is the most exciting part of the vehicle buying process – sitting behind the wheel of the model you’ve researched so thoroughly. You can pop the hood and get a good look at the mechanics of the car to make sure there are no visual issues. Make sure all fluid levels are adequate and look for any loose connections. There is only one way to truly evaluate the condition of the engine, and that is to drive it.

In fact, over 72 million U.S. vehicles have open recalls on them—that’s 23% of all cars on the road! 2 And yep, you guessed it—people still try to sell those cars without getting the recall fixed. Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for your vehicle’s recall history (if it has one). Some used cars buyers don’t test drive the car before making the purchase. When you don’t test drive the car you’re buying, you run the risk of running into unexpected and potentially expensive problems.

Even if a bill of sale is not required in your state, it’s wise to fill one. The car’s brand, model, year, and vehicle identification number are all listed on the title, which serves as legal proof of ownership. Checking the frame will reveal if the car has been in an accident and is one of the most important items on the checklist for buying a used car. A damaged frame, if not repaired properly, can reduce the car’s ability to protect you in an accident.

It’s also worth considering factors like safety ratings, available technology features, and the cost of maintenance and repairs. You may locate a used SUV that satisfies your requirements in terms of lifestyle and price by carefully examining these factors. No one wants to mistakenly purchase a “lemon” car, riddled with defects that aren’t apparent at first sight.

To hide the no. of kilometers the car has actually run and mislead the buyer into thinking that the car is a good buy. It is not a good idea to tamper with the meter as buyers have become smart and will come to know through service history records and tell-tale signs of tampering. But the question here is that how do you know what we tell is true?

Aside from dealerships, you can find great deals on used cars at local public auctions and on used car websites. If you are financing your vehicle purchase, the car title will be sent to your lender until you have paid off the loan. You may see some vehicles labeled as a “Certified Pre-Owned Car,” which can imply that it is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. However, sometimes these vehicles are covered under a third-party warranty or are no longer covered at all if they are older than three or four years. Depending on the type of financing you choose, you may have to show proof of residency, income, or identity to pre-qualify for a loan. It all depends on what type of documentation your lender requires; however, it can speed up the buying process if you have these items prepared in advance.

  • When buying a used car from an individual, remember that you’ll need to be insured before you drive it.
  • If you’re buying from a dealer and looking at purchasing an aftermarket warranty, keep in mind that they aren’t all created equal.
  • However, if you’re someone who likes to see and touch the cars you’re considering, you can visit dealerships in-person.
  • By following these tips, you can ensure that you’re getting a reliable and high-quality vehicle.
  • An easy way to know what to check when buying a used car is to bring along a friend who knows cars.

You can narrow the field by making a list of must-have features. As you move forward, build a list of a few car models https://mashcar.com/ to research in more detail. Easily compare personalized rates to see how much switching car insurance could save you.

Keep in mind that a salesperson might offer you additional service plans and extended warranty options. History reports are inexpensive and provide valuable information for purchasing decisions. Reports include details on accidents, flood damage, number of previous owners, VIN verification, actual mileage, and recall checks. If you are considering buying a used car from a dealer, ask to see a vehicle history report from CARFAX or similar service. Conduct thorough research on the make, model, and year of the used car you’re interested in before finalizing your decision.

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