Although the benefits of owning a new car include reliability, buying a used car can offer just as much dependability while also offering economic savings. Additionally, buying a used car can often allow you to buy a luxury car that is a few years old, which can allow you more comfort and amenities than you might be able to afford in a new car.
That said, buying a used car requires you to shop a little differently as you must quickly ascertain the value of the car as well as how smoothly it drives. Consequently, you have to examine its history, its current state, and its key failure components to determine if it will hold its value and deliver day-to-day reliability.
1. Initial inspection
The initial inspection should be an online inspection that provides you information on the overall model. For instance, you can visit a variety of review sites and see if most customers find the vehicle to be a good buy and a reliable car. You can also check for recalls, and you can easily look for various car complaints to determine the most common repairs you can expect from any particular model.
Of course, once you determine that the model is trustworthy and your particular vehicle has never been in a wreck, you should conduct the initial inspection. This inspection should involve four specific areas:
Regarding the exterior and the frame, you should look at the wheel wells for rust, and you should look at the windshield just above the hood for cracks. Cracks can develop along the wiper blade if the previous owner turned on the heater when there was ice on the windshield. Other exterior points of interest include the following:
- tire tread: cracks and depth
- trim around the window: rust
- paint: level of oxidation, scratches
- bumper: cracks
The interior inspection should involve looking at the quality of the seats, but the most important component is the brake pedal. A visibly worn brake pedal indicates 30,000 or more miles on the brakes. A smooth pedal indicates 50,000 or more. In terms of cost, a worn brake pedal indicates brakes that will need to be replaced.
When you examine the motor, you should look at the fluid levels as well as all the belts. If the belts are oxidized and brittle, they will have hairline cracks. Belts in this condition need to be replaced.
When you take the car out for a drive, you should pay special attention to the following:
- engine knocking
- shift smoothness
- braking smoothness
In terms of vibrations, if you feel any near the front of the motor, the motor mounts can be weak or in need of replacement. Engine knocking means the car burns oil, indicating future costs. Whether the vehicle features an automatic transmission or a manual stick, it should shift smoothly and firmly. Braking should be smooth and silent. Squealing indicates the pads will need to be replaced. Finally, the vehicle should accelerate smoothly and steadily without knocking.
In terms of electronics and accessories, you should also test the following:
- windshield wipers
- hazard lights
- turn signals
When it comes to brake lights, you should pull into a parking lot and have someone stand near the rear of the vehicle while you test the brake lights and the backup lights.
You should ensure dashboard lights work, and you will need to check that the fuel gauge is operational. Finally, you should verify the accuracy of the odometer.
While you are in the driver’s seat, you should ensure all the windows and locks work. If the windows are manual, you should move from one seat to another and ensure all windows roll up and down and that the doors lock and unlock. Because door handles are used more than any component in the car, you should ensure they are all in working order and not cracked or broken.
4. Owner history
In addition to looking at the online report of the car, you can also do a license plate lookup. Doing so will give you specific information regarding the prospective vehicle as well as any events involving the current owner. Such information is critical to uncover accidents that were reported to the police but not to the insurance company. Looking up this information can also uncover any crime information, which would make buying the car unwise.