A used car can be a great investment if you shop carefully and only buy what seems right. In order to determine a good purchase, you will need to pay attention to a series of criteria that can help you avoid any issues. By following a few steps, you can help eliminate any financial or logistical issues that might come up surrounding your pre-owned car purchase.

1) Compare the Value with a Reliable Resource

Instead of taking the cost at face value, you should compare the value of the car to resources such as the Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers Association Guide. These guides and books include extensive information on current and past models and their value across the nation, making it possible for you to get the best deal.

2) Get Any Terms or Promises in Writing

Most dealers will tell you up front that any promises that you make verbally are hard to enforce at best, and impossible at worst. For this reason, make sure that any terms that you agree upon in conversation are also written into a contract format and signed by both parties. This forms a written agreement that you can refer to in the future if a dispute arises. This is especially important for private sellers, who are not subject to the same guidelines and rules as dealerships are.

3) Examine the Major Systems that May Fail

If you are car-savvy, bring a checklist, and if you’re not, bring an inspector. Either way, you should know which car systems are subject to failure or complications in used models. Examine each and every one of them for potential issues before agreeing to a purchase. Some of the most important systems include the frame, engine, brake system, transmission, steering system, suspension system, cooling system, electrical system and fuel system.

4) Determine if the Sale is As-Is
 This should be relatively easy to determine if the dealer has posted a Buyer’s Guide, which has “As Is” as one of the first criteria. Every sale is either as-is or under dealer warranty. An as-is sale means that the dealer offers no support or warranty beyond the purchase, while dealer warranties depend on the dealership itself.

5) Look at the Manufacturer’s Warranty

Depending on how old your model is, the car might actually have an effective manufacturer’s warranty still on it. If this is the case, research what coverage you have before declining a warranty from the dealer. In some cases, the dealer’s warranty is more extensive than the manufacturer’s, and it may last longer, especially if the manufacturer’s warranty is already close to expiration. You can also buy a service warranty, whether you have a manufacturer’s warranty or not. Depending on the extent of the service warranty, you may have coverage for even minor repairs and maintenance, which can save a lot of money in the long term. Maintenance on a pre-owned car is important to maximize the lifetime of the vehicle, so any warranty that helps you stay up-to-date on maintenance is a good investment.