Buying a Used Car: What Do You Need To Know?
A new vehicle represents a significant outlay of money, and when you buy used there’s an increased chance of things going wrong. Whereas with a new purchase from a dealership you have a full manufacturer’s warranty to back you up, buying used could mean you end up with a clunker and an expensive repair bill.
If you buy a used car from a reputable business like Kansas City Subaru dealer Lee’s Summit Subaru, you’re not going to have any issues. A used Subaru from a dealership that wants your repeat business is unlikely to have significant problems as the dealership has performed a comprehensive inspection. Their reputation relies on word-of-mouth, so selling poor quality used cars can be a death knell for any such dealership.
If you choose to purchase privately, you can potentially save a small percentage over the price you’d pay at an authorized dealership, but you’ll need to be perceptive to avoid all pitfalls. Let’s consider some of the most important things you need to think about when you’re buying a used car.
Perform Used Car Research
There are so many new and used cars on the market you will first need to narrow down your options. Consider the type of vehicle you need, and then narrow your search down to particular models. Research each of these models and check what their common defects, repair costs, and going rates are.
Get an Estimated Going Rate for Your Preferred Model
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to one or two models, use the Kelley Blue Book pricing tool to get an idea of the going rate of the vehicle. The manufacture year of the car you plan to buy makes a big difference to price, but condition and features differ between cars too. By this point, you should have a good idea if an offered price is too high or too good to be true.
Get a Better Idea about Your Potential Choice’s History
You have a particular model in mind, so now consider the history of the vehicle. When the answers to these questions are not spelled out on an online listing, ask the seller directly.
- How many owners has the car had?
- Has the car ever been in an accident?
- How many miles are on the clock?
- Why are they selling the car?
- What kind of condition is the car in?
If the answers to these questions seem suspect, walk away. You should ask these questions again when face-to-face with the seller if you’re buying privately as it is easier to gauge in person whether they are being truthful or not.
Getting a history report from AutoCheck or CARFAX is important to get a full picture of the vehicle’s history.
Perform a Thorough Physical Inspection
Before even taking the car for a test drive, take a good look at the exterior and interior. You’re particularly looking for signs the car has had any body repair work performed, whether it has been flooding damaged, or whether there is any rust.
Check that the battery terminals have no corrosion. Check that there are no cracks in the windshield. Find any scratches or dents on the body, and test all doors open and close as expected. Check all of the lights, and particularly check the hinges and the trunk for rust.
Inside, make sure the seats all adjust as expected and all of the power windows work. See if all of the gauges work and that the air conditioning/heating works. Check the stereo. Check that all of the locks work from the inside and the outside. Make sure that the window wipers and fluid work correctly. Does the owner have the car title?
Carefully inspect the tires. Do they have any cracks or cuts? Are the tires going to need to be replaced soon or do they have uneven tread? Is there a spare tire and jack?
If you do find issues but you consider them to be minimal, you can use them as leverage to barter a better price.
The Test Drive
Always take the car for a test drive, and that means out on a road where you can drive over 60 mph. Not every problem with a vehicle will show up when you’re just milling around a parking lot.
The most important things to note are the steering wheel alignment and the brakes. If there are any grinding noises or the car pulls to one side there can be an issue. Check that the exhaust pipe isn’t emitting black or blue smoke, and listen to the engine for any unexpected knocks or hisses.
Is there a strange smell from the engine or leaking oil? Does the steering wheel rattle at any speed or give you unexpected resistance? These are warning signs that you’ll need to do maintenance on the vehicle sooner than later, and it may be pricey.
If your gut tells you this is the right vehicle, then it’s time to negotiate the price. You may also need to consider financing options. There’s no pressure on you to buy, so if you think the seller is being too stubborn on the price then just walk away.
Again, choosing an authorized dealership can take a lot of the hassle out of the process, as financing will generally be available onsite and haggling is kept to a minimum.
Avoid making an impulse buy, and you’ll be sure to get the used car of your dreams.