Buying a used car can be a rewarding experience or an absolute nightmare. It is possible to buy a used car that will function as good as a new one for a number of years. But you could end up with a lemon if you don’t know how to check the condition and roadworthiness of the vehicle you are planning to buy. The following tips will help you be a shrewder customer when it comes time to choosing your next set of wheels.
1. Find the Car That’s Right for You
The best car for you is one that suits your lifestyle. Choose a car that will meet your transportation needs, within your budget. When you are setting your budget, you must look at the cost price of the car and how much you’d need to pay per month to cover your loan (should it be required). Then you have to factor in the cost of gas and maintenance. Ideally, your monthly car expenses (including possible loan repayments) and maintenance costs should be capped at 20 percent of your monthly income.
2. Create a Shortlist and Compare Prices
After you’ve determined a price range for your car, you need to shortlist some models and do further research on them. This will help you to focus and avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer number of used cars available. To help you reduce the time you spend in researching car models, you can focus on those that:
* Have good fuel efficiency
* Relatively low maintenance costs
* A driver-friendly dashboard
* Have a good reputation for safety and durability
* Have a good second value
It’s also important to read user reviews from people who have bought them and create a list of pros and cons for each model you are researching. After you’ve found one or two models that you are willing to buy, visit car auction websites to compare prices.
3. Check Vehicle History Reports
Having an insight into a vehicles condition and previous history is one of the most important steps to take when you are buying a used car. You need to be aware that a number of used cars available for sale could (and probably have) been involved in an accident. They might have been refurbished at an auto body shop (be it privately or at the request of an insurance firm) and subsequently put up for sale.
Your first step to reveal the true story behind any used car is to find the vehicle identification number (VIN) which is normally printed on the vehicle. Be aware though that its location varies dependant on the model. Once you’ve acquired the VIN you should run a check online before you do any further investigation about a given vehicle you might be interested in. Once you’ve run the check you will have a much better idea as to whether:
* The vehicle was refurbished from a wreck.
* There are unpaid loans on the car.
* The odometer has been tampered with.
If any of these has occurred, kindly step away from it and walk the other way.
4. Do a Vehicle Inspection
No matter how nice a car looks on the outside, you must do a thorough vehicle inspection to identify any hidden issues. The money you spend on an inspection is nothing compared to what you can lose if you buy a lemon. Ask a reliable mechanic or a specialist service competent enough to point out any hidden faults or issues that will stop you from enjoying the car. A vehicle inspection must cover all aspects of the car including:
* The engine and all its parts
* The driving mechanism (including the steering and driving shaft)
* The braking system
* The tires
* The upholstery
* The infotainment panel
* The seat belts, airbags and other safety equipment
* The identification numbers including the VIN, engine and chassis numbers.
Note that if the car seller is not willing to allow an independent car inspection he/she has something to hide.
5. Go for a Test Drive
Request a test drive to know how the vehicle will perform under various road conditions. Test it on a highway and on smaller roads within a residential area. This will allow you to check the responsiveness of the steering wheel, brakes, accelerator and transmission system. You will also have a feel for the alignment of the wheels. Test the car at both high and low speeds.
As you go on the test drive, listen carefully for any strange noises that come from the engine when you press the throttle pedal. Test the car on slopes to know if the car’s engine is strong enough to ascend hills smoothly. If you can, test the car during the day and at night. Then request any maintenance records that the owner might have, as this will indicate the kind of life the vehicle has had. Be cautious if no documentation exists.
6. Get Financing
Depending on the budget you’ve set aside for your used car purchase, you might find yourself needing finance for the vehicle. In these circumstances, financing will be easier to get if you are buying from an accredited dealer, rather than from a private party. Most dealers have brokers through which they can offer you a variety of loans, suited to your unique situation. Alternatively, if you don’t feel that the dealership is offering you a good enough deal, you can always turn to your own banking/lending institution and inquire about what they can offer in terms of automotive (or even personal) loans.
Buying a used car can be a rewarding process if you have the right information and you know how to spot the good ones from the lemons. Whether you choose to go to a dealership or you buy from a private seller, you still need to do your due diligence, be patient and thorough with your research and consider the suggestions mentioned above. Good luck!