Buying a used car can be a total nightmare if you don’t know what to look for. You may be tempted to purchase a vehicle based simply on what you see, what you can afford or how you feel. Unfortunately, that approach can lead to some bad decisions. To help you avoid making crucial mistakes when buying a used car, we’ve put together a checklist of what you should look out for.
Check for Evidence of Previous Accidents
Inspect the vehicle thoroughly to ensure that there is no structural damage that may affect its performance. You should also be on the lookout for cars with “salvage titles,” which means they were previously totaled in a serious accident, fire, or flood. In most cases, you want to steer clear of vehicles with salvage titles because they might still have hidden issues. Check the full vehicle history report with Carfax before buying a used car so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Check the Engine and Tires
A car is only as good as its engine. It is always a good idea to have a qualified mechanic check the used car to make sure you’re not buying a lemon. If you have to replace the engine, the car may end up costing you more money than it’s worth. It’s also important to double check the car’s tires. If they’re eroded, you may need to spend even more money to purchase a new set, which could easily cost hundreds of dollars. It may be a good idea to look into extended warranties to protect your vehicle against expensive repairs.
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Access to Spare Parts
With a used car, you should expect that some of the parts will eventually need to be replaced. It’s important that you can find these parts on the market, otherwise you may end up paying more if they are not readily available. Try to opt for a vehicle that has accessible spare parts.
Some experts (including Phong Ly, CEO of used car website iSeeCars.com), recommend buying Japanese vehicles due to their reputation for reliability and customer satisfaction. With brands such as Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, and Mitsubishi, Japanese car makers typically provide reliable vehicles with accessible parts that can be easily replaced.
Check the Vehicle’s Documents
Verify the validity of the vehicle’s documents before finalizing any used car purchase. A mechanic may be able to help confirm the quality of the car if you have any doubts; if the seller is skeptical about letting a mechanic look at the vehicle, this may be a red flag.
If you’re at a new car dealership and you’re told that the vehicle is certified pre-owned, this usually means the car has already been thoroughly inspected and includes an extended factory warranty. In this case, you probably don’t need to take the car to your mechanic, since a certified pre-owned vehicle already meets certain standards.
It’s always a good idea to protect your investment. If you purchase a vehicle that isn’t certified pre-owned, you may want to extend the warranty to avoid paying for expensive repairs on your own.