10 Things to Look For When Buying a Used Vehicle
Buying a used car can be a much cheaper alternative to buying brand new or even leasing. That’s why in 2020, used vehicles sales in 2020 came out to about 39.3 million units versus 14 million units for new cars and trucks. Though this is a more common practice, buying used vehicles can come with major risks. Purchasing a reliable vehicle is all about strategy, research, and knowledge. It’s important to look for potential issues prior to purchasing to avoid major headaches down the road. Plus, with many services going all-digital, you need to be even more careful. Understanding how to navigate online vehicle sales for used cars is just as important as in-person experiences, especially if you aren’t test driving.
For all you used-vehicle purchasers out there, here are some reliable tips for what to look for when buying a used vehicle.
1. Check the Window Buyers Guide
Dealerships are required to post Buyers Guides in used cars. These are typically places in the window as a decal, or on the front seat. Included in these one-sheet guides are typically information about the cars warranty, costs of repairs that haven’t been completed, if the car is being sold “as is”, etc. It’s important to consider a vehicle that has a dealer warranty. That way if something goes wrong with your used car, it’s not on you to foot the bill. When a vehicle is sold “as is”, that means you as the buyer are fully responsible for what happens the minute you leave the lot.
2. Vehicle History Report
Ever heard of CARFAX? I bet you have. CARFAX is a service that provides completed information about a vehicle’s record based on the VIN. It will confirm if a vehicle has been in any accidents, how many owners it’s had, whether there has been any recalls or liens, and more. A service like this is highly recommended when you’re in the market for a used car.
3. Vehicle Mileage
The vehicle mileage can say a lot about its age and what it’s been through. High vehicle mileage isn’t always a bad sign, as a vehicle that’s regularly serviced should hold up for at least 200,000 miles. In the United States, the average driver puts about 13,500 miles on their vehicle in a year. If you divide the total vehicle mileage by the vehicles age, you’ll get a better picture of wear and tear.
4. The Condition of the Tires
Many people don’t recognize how important tires are to their vehicles overall health. When tires become overly worn, haven’t been consistently rotated, and the tread becomes uneven, this can cause suspension, steering, or even frame issues. You’ll want to steer clear from a vehicle with any signs of uneven tire tread or wear.
5. Issues with the Vehicle Frame
Frame issues mean major issues, sooner rather than later. To look for these, check to see if the vehicle is level when parked. Also check to see if the front and back bumpers line up properly. Another sign of a potential frame issue would be doors not closing properly, especially the trunk. And last, take a look under the vehicle if you can – you might be able to see the bending or damage to the frame more easily.
6. Check Under the Hood
Though the tire condition and vehicle frame are two extremely important parts of a healthy vehicle, the engine health is essential to a long-lasting car. It’s important to take a look under the hood for any visual signs of damage. Look for fluid leaks, cracked hoses, vehicle corrosion. Also check the oil for discoloration. If you see any signs of damage, avoid this vehicle, and when possible, have your trusted mechanic take a deeper look.
7. Rust, Body or Paint Damage
When rust spots start to grow, it can be near impossible to stop without full panel replacements. If you see rust spots, consider another vehicle. If you see damage to the vehicle body or paint, this could mean many things. Paint damage can come from wear and tear, especially in more humid environments. But body damage typically means the vehicle has been in an accident and was either not repaired at all, or not repaired properly. If you see minor dents, ask the dealership to get those fixed before your purchasing.
8. The Vehicle Electronics & Upholstery
Now these two tips aren’t deal-breakers, but who wants ripped upholstery and a blown-out sound system in their car?! Make sure to listen to the radio to check the sound system, loud and clear. Also check the air conditioning and heat to ensure they’re working properly. And last, look for tears, stains, or cracks in the vehicle upholstery. Repairing the upholstery does not come cheap.
9. What to Check During a Test Drive
If you’ve gotten this far in your vehicle purchasing journey, great! This is one of the most important parts. When test driving a used car, make sure to have enough space to test acceleration, sharp turns, and sudden brakes. If you sense any issues, be cautious. Also, practicing merging and parallel parking for a better understanding of its potential blind spots.
10. Inspection from a Mechanic You Trust
This last tip, though optional, is highly recommended. It does come at a cost, but save you thousands in the long run. Your trusted mechanic will look for any major underlying issues that were difficult to spot on the surface, and will make a final recommendation to you on whether or not you should purchase the vehicle.
Now that you have the tips needed to successful inspect a used vehicle, it’s time to start your buying journey! And if you’re ever in need of auto collision repair services in the Colorado Front Range, be sure to give us a call.