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What To Look For When Buying A Used Car

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 2

A Quick Check Over Can Save You A Lot Of Money



what to look for when buying a used car
It's important that you know what to look for when buying a used car. Buying a used car 
can save you a boatload of cash and be a great hassle-free investment. If you don't know what to look for however, you may end up with somebody else's problem that will cost you a ton of money in the long run. Potentially even more than buying new. There is a simple method to buying a used car that will ensure you get a great vehicle

If you choose to buy from a dealer, check up on their reputation first. There are many good used car dealers out there and many bad ones. Ask around, and get a recommendation from somebody you trust. When you go in, name drop and make sure they know that so-and-so sent you there and insisted that they're the best, most honest etc. If the dealer knows that you were a referral they will be more likely to treat you well and continue getting referrals.

Whether you buy privately or from a dealer, always have the car inspected by a mechanic you trust. Don't accept "we've run it through our shop" or anything else the salesman will tell you as a final word on the mechanical condition of the car. I can't stress this enough. Your mechanic will usually charge you a fee for looking over the car and has nothing to gain either way. This is how you can ensure you are getting an honest opinion. Your mechanic knows exactly what to look for when purchasing a used car. The fees for having vehicles inspected can start to add up so I've put together some things to check before you even take a car to a mechanic to ensure that it's worth the time and money.

Every used car has a past and it's your job to find it out. Don't assume that because the car is being sold by a dealer or that it has only had one owner that there's nothing hidden. You need the whole story. 

Here's my opinion on what to look for when buying a used car. This simple check will take less than 10 minutes and is well worth the time.

1. Maintenance history

If the owner has no evidence that the car has been maintained, walk away. If the car is still fairly new and has some factory warranty remaining, you may be able to get the service history from the dealer. You need to know that the car has had it's regular oil changes and been serviced at the proper intervals. The more receipts the better. Tires, any aftermarket accessories, stereo etc. Meticulous people keep receipts and they are the best types to buy a used car from.

2. Accident history

There are a few different websites that will tell you the accident history of any car for a small fee. All they need is the VIN (vehicle identification number) to do this. Always check this. The car may have accident history that the current owner doesn't even know about. This will also tell you if the car has been imported from another country or province.

3. Check the paint

Do a full walk around of the car and check that the paint color and condition is consistent. If there's one fender or door that is different from the rest by even a couple of shades, it has likely been repainted. It may just have been a minor ding but if you notice and ask, most people will fess up and tell you what happened.

4. Tires

Replacing tires can be very expensive. Check the tires to make sure that they're the same brand and size, are evenly worn, and not worn out. Even somebody who isn't car savvy at all can spot an obvious defect in a tire.

5. Leaks

Cars shouldn't leak fluid even if the seller assures you it's minor. Look under the front and rear of the car and make sure there's no wetness anywhere. If there is, I would avoid it. If you really still want the car and there's some fluid leaking then it's even more important to have it checked by a mechanic.

6. Oil level and condition

Check the oil. It should be gold to dark brown and full. Oil will appear black if it's been in the engine for some time and this may not be a bad thing. If the oil is completely black, go to step 1 and make sure the last oil change was documented and it was within the prescribed time.

7. Interior condition

As a general rule, people treat the interior of their car the same way they treat it mechanically. If the interior is ratty, dirty, or otherwise not well kept, I would stay clear. Not only has the owner likely not cared very well for the rest of the car, but that also says something for how serious they are about the sale. If somebody is serious about selling a car, I would expect them to put the effort into cleaning it properly.

These things are key when learning what to look for when buying a used car. If they all check out, then the car is a good candidate to take to your mechanic. If something doesn't seem right, I would steer clear. But if you really like the car and want to have it inspected anyways, make sure to talk to your mechanic about any specific concerns. And remember, there's no substitute for a good mechanic!



Oct 16, 2012 10:27am
Used cars are definitely the way to go. Their first owner has taken the major hit on its depreciation, and that's money in your pocket, everytime. Thanks for the article, and congrats on the feature!
Oct 16, 2012 6:26pm
Completely agree. I have bought new cars and it's a mistake that I won't make again.
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