Buying a used car is a process that’s as fraught with risks and problems as any large purchase. However, there are ways to mitigate those risks and make it an easier experience, provided you plan ahead and do a little research.
Do Your Homework
The nice thing about the Internet is that it allows you to research pretty much everything before you so much as step onto a lot. Sit down with a notepad and start with your needs. If, for example, you’re looking for a pick-up truck, research makes and models of truck that have the least mechanical problems over time. Look up whether or not there have been any recalls on the model, and for what.
Similarly, look up dealerships. Who has a good reputation? Who doesn’t? Finally, look up what used cars are available in your area from the dealerships with the best reputation. Often most used car dealerships will have their entire inventory online for your perusal, and you can compare it against the Blue Book value.
Check The History
When you’ve found a car you like, the next step is to see what happened to it. It should be simple for you to pull the Carfax or a similar history report that will lay out, completely, any modifications, repairs, accidents, and other potential issues that litter any used vehicles history. Keep a particular eye out for major damage that has been repaired or unfulfilled recalls, and make a point of running the report yourself.
Check For Signs Of Wear
The next step is to look closely at the car itself to see if there are any signs of damage or tampering. Odometer tampering is relatively rare now, but it still happens, either at the dealership or thanks to the former owner. Examine the pedals, the tires, and the overall condition of the car. Also be sure to check the odometer against the maintenance and inspection records, against the oil-change and service stickers, and, of course, on the title.
Have A Mechanic You Trust Check It Out
A reputable used car dealer won’t mind that you want to bring in an outside mechanic. In fact, that will probably be one of the first questions they ask you, which mechanic you use and who they should refer the car to. Your mechanic should do a full check-up on the car and look over the car’s history as well.
Never Sign An “As-Is” Deal
Finally, even if the car checks out completely, even if all the numbers line up perfectly, even if the math makes sense and you’ve triple-checked it … never take the car as-is. That lets the dealership off the hook completely for problems they might have missed, and leaves you with the repair tab.
No Title, No Sale
It almost goes without saying, but if they don’t have a title, legally speaking, they probably can’t sell the car. Cars without titles can be legitimate sales, but they’re an enormous legal headache and there’s no reason to be the sucker.
It may be a bit of an involved process. But if you’re careful and do your research, you’ll get the best used car for your money.