Caveat Emptor: Tips For Making An Informed Used Car Purchase

Buying a used car can be a harrowing experience. If you're not familiar with the cars and the automobile industry, it's hard to know if you're buying a reasonable car at a reasonable price. That said, a well-researched used car purchase can be a hugely beneficial move for many families.

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to inform yourself and ensure that your next used car purchase is a good one. These strategies combine research before visiting your auto dealer, like those at Neil's Finance Plaza Inc., with a correct analysis of the car you intend to purchase.

Researching The Vehicle

There are a number of things to look for when considering a specific vehicle. These include:

  • Vehicle history report
  • Maintenance characteristics of the make/model
  • Possible recalls

Vehicle History Reports--There are a number of proprietary services that can supply you with a history of most vehicles. Usually, auto dealers will provide a copy of one for free upon request, but you can get your own copy by supplying the vehicle's identification number, or VIN. You'll want to obtain at least one report for any used car that you intend to purchase.

Along with the vehicle's accident history, these reports also let you know if the car was damaged in a flood, part of a rental fleet, or even stolen at some point. If reports come back with red flags in any of these areas, you'd be wise to move on. With all of the potential money sinks associated with these vehicles, there's really no reason to take a risk. 

Possible Recalls--Automobiles can be recalled for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are minor and will not impact the quality of your car in any significant way. Others are serious issues that must be corrected. Online databases allow you to search for any recalls that involve your potential automobile. You should check these sources before making any used car purchase.

Maintenance Characteristics--Certain automobiles can have a reputation for excellent--or awful--maintenance histories. Along with internet sources, a great way to gain this information is to call your local mechanic. They can talk about their personal history with a particular make or model and will often evaluate a used car for a small fee.

Analyzing Your Car Correctly

While automobiles are complicated machines, anyone can perform a reasonable examination of a used car. The key is to know what to look for. Before taking the used car for a test drive, always check for:

  • Exterior and internal rust
  • Uneven tire wear
  • Matching paint

Exterior and Internal Rust--Even with modern technology, rust is a major issue for automobiles. Be certain to check the undercarriage and every exposed body panel for evidence of rust. Blistering under the paint is a telltale sign. Also, open the hood and check the engine compartment for rust on any moving parts as well.

Uneven Tire Wear--When an automobile is properly maintained, the tires should wear evenly. Using a penny, check the depth of the tire treads in multiple areas on each tire. Uneven wear could simply be the result of neglect--but it could also reflect a serious alignment issue.

Matching Paint--Matching paint doesn't refer to the color, though any color mismatch should be an obvious red flag. Specifically, you should look to ensure that the paint seems to be the same age. Fresh paint in specific areas will indicate that repairs have been made. You'll want an explanation regarding all of the work done on the vehicle if you notice this. 

If the vehicle you intend to purchase passes all of your research points and examinations, you can confidently proceed with the purchase. While no strategy can possibly ensure that every sale is a winner, you'll greatly reduce the chances that you run into any undesirable surprises down the road.