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How to Buy a Used Car

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While buying a used car can often be a great way to acquire a fine car for a fair price, it’s important to remember that not all used vehicles are created equal. Some have simply been better maintained than others. Some may be in prime driving condition, but a few may have significant wear and tear that makes their value suboptimal.

As a consumer, it’s up to you to do your due diligence in ensuring you’re getting a good, quality vehicle. One step you can take is to research the full vehicle history on a site like Carfax. Beyond that, conducting a full inspection of the car is also recommended. The question is, what should you be looking for?

Used Car Inspections: A Checklist

This list is not necessarily exhaustive, but may provide you with some basic guidelines as you inspect a vehicle.

Tires. Some warning signs and red flags to look out for are obvious scuffing or cracks in the tires, or different brands of tire on each wheel.

Lights. Have the vehicle’s seller get behind the wheel and turn on each light, one set at a time, so that you can walk around and make sure they are all illuminating correctly.

Interior odors. If the inside of the car smells like mold or mildew, that’s a good indicator that the vehicle has been in some intense flooding.

Upholstery. Rips or tears in the upholstery should be noted, as they may indicate a more general lack of upkeep.

The instrument panel. If any of the warning/service lights come on when you start the car, that means there’s some issue that needs to be resolved.

Controls. It’s always a good idea to check all the vehicle controls and make sure they work properly—climate control, audio, etc.

Hoses. Feel along all the hoses under the hood of the vehicle, and be wary of any holes or cracks.

Fluids. Checking all fluid levels is recommended. Especially check the engine oil—and if there isn’t any, that’s a very bad sign about the vehicle upkeep.

Additional Ways to Verify a Vehicle

In addition to all of these steps, we recommend you go a step further and take the vehicle for a test drive. What you’re trying to be aware of here are feel and sound; if the car doesn’t feel right, or if it makes funny noises that you’re not comfortable with, that may be reason enough for you to just walk away, or else take the vehicle to a mechanic for a second opinion.

Speaking of which, you can always ask to take the car to an independent mechanic for an inspection. This will cost you a few extra dollars but may be a sound investment, offering you peace of mind in your buying process.

Regardless, you should always take time to inspect a vehicle rigorously before you buy. For more tips on purchasing used vehicles, follow us at Get My Auto.