Shopping for used cars can be a tricky and overwhelming process. First, you need to figure out what you can afford. Then, you need to decide what type of model you’re going to buy. Car, truck, SUV, wagon, crossover? After that, you need to decide where you’re going to buy it from. This could be privately from someone on Craigslist, at a dealership, at an online car shopping website, or on a virtual web-based dealership that can get cars shipped to their physical dealership. Regardless of where you decide to buy, you should always thoroughly inspect the car (or get it independently inspected) for any potential issues, as well as test drive it for a solid 10 or 15 minutes to allow the engine to warm up. That way, you can identify any problems the car might have that you’d miss during a cold start.
But, those aren’t part of the three things to know about a used car before buying. However, they are connected. How? Just like those are two things you should do regardless of where you buy, these are three things to know about a used car before you buy it. The cool part? Whether you buy it online or at the dealership, there’s nothing stopping you from learning these three vital pieces of information.
Combine this info with a solid inspection and good test drive, and you’ll be surprised how much better your used car buying experience will become.
The TRUE Value of the Vehicle
It’s important to always know the true value of the vehicle. There’s multiple ways to do this, two of the most reputable ways are through Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds TMV (True Market Value) pricing.
To access either of these two online sources, you’ll need the vehicle’s make, model, year, mileage, and some other information related to the condition of the vehicle. Simply follow the yellow brick road of filling out information, and voila! You have the true value of the vehicle. It’s a little more drawn out than that, but that’s the general idea
This is important no matter where you’re shopping, because then you have a rock-solid price to haggle with. More importantly, it will tell you if the seller is trying to screw you on the deal or not.
Are There Any Warranties in Place? Or Are You Buying “As Is?”
While this relates more towards a dealership or online inventory, it’s still possible — albeit slightly rarer — to find warranties on a used car that’s sold privately.
If a vehicle is sold with the label “As Is,” you’re responsible for any repairs or damages that might happen to the vehicle. Even if the transmission giving out isn’t your fault, and the dealer knew about it, you bought it in “As Is” condition. Contractually, the dealership isn’t obligated to pay for a cent of repairs.
Same goes for a private seller. Find out if there is a transferable warranty on the used car you’re interested in, or if you’re buying it in “As Is” condition. Since most cars sold on Craigslist are much older, you won’t typically find warranties on them. However, if you are trying to buy a newer used car, make sure to look into this.
Know the History of the Car
Just like the true value of the vehicle, knowing the history of the model is of utmost importance. Why? Because, it will tell you about potential issues that the vehicle has had in the past (so you can see and ask if they’ve been properly repaired), any accidents the model has been in, how many owners the vehicle has had, and other vital information.
How does all this come into play? Let’s look at a mock (but very realistic) example. Say you find a car for a great deal, test drove it, had it professionally inspected, and checked out the history of the vehicle. It’s never been in an accident, you’ve seen the routine maintenance receipts, and know it’s only been owned by one person. That’s what I like to call the jackpot. Chances are, even if it has slightly higher mileage, it’s going to last for a long while.
On the other end, if a car has a price that’s too good to be true and you discover that it’s been in an accident and not had the proper repairs done, then it’s probably a good thing you took the time to check out the history of the vehicle before buying it. Right?
Learn about the true value of the car, learn the history, make sure to know what conditions you’re buying it under, test drive it, and get it professionally inspected. Chances are, you’ll find used car buying much less stressful if you apply everything this article has mentioned.