Used car buying can be a gamble. If you aren’t informed, or if you haven’t done your research, you could end up buying someone else’s nightmare. However, breathe easy my readers because there is hope. Used car buying can be a great way to save money off the sticker price, and a way to find a reliable vehicle for much less than what you would pay for a new one. So pay attention deal seekers, because here you will find the basics to finding that perfect pre-loved vehicle to make your own.
As with any car buying, new or used, do your research. Check all of the popular sites such as KBB.com and Consumer Reports for reliability ratings and known issues etc. for particular models you are considering. Additionally, many brands have a loyal following and as a result, forums (websites) dedicated entirely to their brand. These are not usually endorsed by the manufacturer, but can be an incredible source of knowledge. Examples would be NASIOC.com for Subaru and ih8mud.com or yotatech.com for Toyota SUV/Truck owners. Not only will these sites prove helpful for choosing a brand, but they can even give you some insight into which particular model year performed better than others. As always, don’t take everything online as gospel, but time spent on these sites will be well worth your while.
If you have found a particular car you want and plan to go see it, go prepared. Make sure you have gotten a background check on that car and gone over the history (the most common method is CarFax). Know that while this is extremely helpful, history reports don’t always tell the full story. Ask the seller (private or dealer) if they have receipts for the services, being mindful that the big services (timing belt, brakes, suspension etc.) are among the most important to have record of.
When looking at the car, keep in mind a number of things. Even if you have already fallen in love with the car after seeing pictures, try to be as objective as possible. If possible, don’t go and see the car in the rain as wet paint tends to hide blemishes. Keep an eye out for any little dents or scratches, and take a good, slow walk around the car looking for anything that might be off. With your fingers, feel around the edges of doors, the hood and rear hatch etc. and if there is any roughness (or pronounced edge) that might mean it has been repainted which can be taken as a sign that it may have been in an accident. Look under the car where it is parked to see if there are any obvious leaks on the pavement. Take it for a spin and don’t be afraid to push ALL the buttons to make sure everything is working as electrical issues can often be the hardest to tackle.
Finally, after you have taken a good look at it, have it looked over by a trusted mechanic not associated with the seller or dealer. The quick inspection by a mechanic can prove invaluable if there is something that your un-trained eye might have missed. If you get the go-ahead from them, chances are it’s a solid vehicle and you should feel comfortable making an offer on the car.