7 Things to Check Before Buying a Used Car

In this blog post we are going to cover seven important things to check before buying a used car. For many of you out there, buying a used car might conjure up dread or anxiety; however, if you take your time and do your research upfront, you should find the process to be much easier. Ready to start the process of finding the perfect used car for you? Let’s get started!

Seller or car salesman and client or customer in car dealership

1. Narrow your search.

Before you actually start talking to salespeople on car lots, be sure to identify what you need in your used car. Is there a minimum number of seats you need to haul kiddos? Do you refuse to buy a used car with more than 50,000 miles on it?

The better you can narrow your search by knowing your “must haves” the quicker you can identify potential great vehicles that you should look into further.

2. Don’t fall in love with one vehicle.

Whether you’re looking to buy your used vehicle from a private seller or a dealer, try not to fall in love with one specific car. You may prefer a particular model, but keeping yourself open to color, options, etc. can provide you with additional leverage when looking to settle on a price.

If a dealer knows you have to have the specific car sitting on their lot, they can use that leverage to cause you to overpay potentially.

3. Research the car’s history.

There are numerous sites like carfax.com and others which allow you to research a vehicle’s specific history, number of owners, title status, and more by simply providing the VIN. While some dealerships offer this service for free, you may have to pay for that information if you are left to find it yourself.

If you’ve decided on a used vehicle you want to buy, pay the minimal charge necessary for a history report. Less than $50 to potentially save thousands on a lemon or have peace of mind that the vehicle is solid is a pretty fair exchange.

4. Research the private seller or dealership.

In addition to researching the vehicle’s history, be sure to do your research on the private seller or dealership. If you’re purchasing from a stranger via Craigslist or other online posting sites, require that the individual whose name is on the title be present to sign it over.

You want to ensure you aren’t purchasing a stolen vehicle. Excuses of “selling for a friend” who is out-of-state, etc. should be red flags. Likewise, research any local dealers online to find out what others think of the establishment and if they are a reputable dealer.

5. Take a realistic test drive.

While you’re likely to test drive any vehicle you intend to purchase, often times a dealer will attempt to navigate your test driving path. If the path being driven isn’t typical of the kind of drives you’ll use the vehicle for, be sure to tell the salesperson that you need to take the car on roadways you’ll be using it for more often.

If you commute on the interstate for work, jump on the interstate briefly. If stop-and-go traffic is more typical, take it through downtown. You want to know how the car will drive in the conditions you find yourself in the most, not just a casual drive through backroads.

Additionally, if you have to parallel park frequently or utilize other such driving maneuvers, test drive these as well to see how the car’s visibility and functionality handle this.

6. Compare the pricing to other similar vehicles nearby.

Even if you can’t find the exact same “bells and whistles” on other local cars, find similar models (either in person or online) and use them to see if your vehicle is fairly priced. There are also numerous sites online dedicated to doing this research for you.

7. Let a professional inspect the vehicle.

Whether you are buying from a dealer or a private seller, be sure to have a mechanic inspect the vehicle before purchasing. While you can identify dings and scratches, these professionals can find harder to identify issues which could cost you down the road.