Buying used is a good option if you want to get a great vehicle at a significantly lower price than new. However, it also comes with certain risks. If you fail to properly evaluate the car you plan to buy, you might end up with a lemon. On the other hand, if you do your due diligence, you might drive home a nicely conditioned car that can serve you well for many years. Take the following steps to choose the best used car.
Understand Your Needs
The search for your ideal used vehicle should start with an assessment of your personal needs and preferences. Having a clear understanding of your needs can help you narrow down your search and avoid making a buying decision you’ll later regret.
The best way to understand your needs is to think of the things you don’t love about your current car, such as insufficient power, poor handling, high fuel consumption, or lack of legroom. It’s also important to consider your future needs. If you’re planning to get a dog, start a family, or buy a home in a suburb, think about what kind of vehicle you’ll want then.
Find Out the Market Value
Once you’ve determined the type of used vehicle you want to buy, get at least a rough idea of its current market value. Many automotive websites have a vehicle valuation tool that enables you to find almost any vehicle’s market value. Before you use this tool, gather as much information about your desired car as possible, including the make, model, year, trim level, options, mileage, and overall condition. The more details you can provide, the closer you’ll get to the vehicle’s actual value.
The value you found through your research should serve as your starting point when you’re negotiating with a seller or dealer. You can also use it to gauge whether the seller is anxious to sell the vehicle. For instance, if the asking price is too high, it means the seller isn’t in a huge hurry to get rid of the car. However, if the vehicle is priced accurately or below its market value, then you might have found a good deal.
Carefully Inspect the Vehicle
A vehicle’s condition is one of the main indicators of its value. A well-maintained car will be close to the top of the value range, whereas a poorly maintained one might be worth thousands of dollars less. Below are some things you can do to thoroughly inspect the used vehicle you plan to buy:
- Make sure the seats are comfortable: Check all seats to ensure they provide enough legroom and headroom for you and your passengers.
- Inspect every inch of the vehicle: Inspect the car’s interior to see if the dashboard, center console, seats, doors, floor, and ceiling are in good shape. Are they torn, stained, or damaged? On the outside, check the paint job, trim, bumpers, lights, tires, and muffler for dents, scratches, and other types of damage. By visually inspecting every part of the car, you can tell if it has been properly maintained or involved in an accident.
- Take a good whiff of the car: Certain types of smells, such as mildew and cigarette smoke, can be especially hard to remove, but they aren’t signs of mechanical issues. Think twice, however, about buying a car that has the smell of burning oil or gas because it might indicate a major engine problem. Check for this scent after the engine has been running for a while.
- Inspect the engine: If the engine is dirty, it can mean the previous owner didn’t maintain the vehicle properly. See if there’s oil at the top and on the sides of the engine, which can be indicative of leaks or other problems. Cracks or worn belts and hoses are other signs of poor maintenance and can be expensive to fix.
Take a Test Drive
Taking the vehicle for a test drive not only enables you to see how you like it but also gives you a realistic idea of its performance and condition. The following is a list of things you should check when you take the car out for a spin:
- Controls and amenities: Before you hit the road, check all the controls and amenities to make sure they’re working as they should, including the headlights, turn signals, windshield wipers, horn, climate-control system, audio system, power windows, power mirrors, and power seats.
- Handling: Test the vehicle in a variety of driving circumstances, such as stop-and-go traffic, low speed, high speed, sudden acceleration and deceleration, abrupt stops, sharp turns, and bumps.
- Engine: Listen to the sound of the engine. A smooth hum indicates that the engine is in good working order, while knocking or sputtering can mean it has a big problem.
- Brakes: Listen for grinding, squeaking, and metal-on-metal sounds when you step on the brake pedal.
- Exhaust: White or blue smoke might be a sign of a significant mechanical issue.
Have the Vehicle Professionally Inspected
The best way to know if a used car is worth buying is to hire a mechanic to inspect it. Getting a pre-purchase inspection might set you back about $100, but it’s money well spent if it can help you avoid buying a vehicle with major problems.
Look at the Car’s Repair History
You can order the car’s history report from CARFAX if you have its vehicle identification number (VIN) and license plate number. Well-spaced repairs suggest the car is well-maintained, while frequent repairs, especially for the same malfunction, might be a sign of a severe problem.
If you’re looking for a used car, SUV, or truck in Plano, Texas, you can save time, effort, and money by shopping at Huffines Hyundai Plano. We have a huge selection of quality pre-owned vehicles that have been thoroughly inspected and repaired to deliver reliable performance and great value for money. Contact us today to schedule a test drive.
Image via Flickr by Joel Gonsalves