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Important Points to Look For When Buying a Used Car in 2021

The Used car market can be a treasure trove of amazing deals or a monetary disaster depending on how you deal with it. There are plenty of amazing deals out there but certain precautions have to be taken to not get scammed out of your hard-earned money.

Here we’ll discuss some of the steps you should take to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Choosing the right car

The first and most important step is to do some research and find the right car for you. There are plenty of options in the market and some recent models like the 2021 Toyota Camry, which is perfect if you’re on the lookout for a comfortable and practical sedan or if you value practicality and higher passenger capacity, then a 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV will make a lot more sense. Also, be on the lookout for the right trim which suits your requirements. Be warned though, some of the more popular models will cost a lot more even in the used market thanks to their popularity. 

Cars depreciate a lot the moment they leave the showroom floor. So you can find good deals on some fairly new cars if the owner decides to sell them shortly after purchasing. Usually, a used car offers the best value at the 3 – 5 year mark, where the majority of depreciation has already taken place but the car is still relatively new. 

Websites like J.D.Power and consumer reports will give you an idea of how easy a car is to live with, its overall reliability, and ease of maintenance. Generally, Japanese cars from brands like Toyota and Honda offer the most reliability and will last the longest. But in recent times, American brands have stepped up their game with matching reliability scores, making them a good choice as well. But stay away from unreliable brands like Jeep and Fiat, and only consider them if you get a killer deal with proper maintenance history. 

Also, check around for any recalls or inherent issues with the car you selected by going to NHTSA’s website and double-check if the issues have been rectified when you go to check the car. 

Once you have selected a model, follow the steps to make sure you avoid getting scammed. 

There is a lot of certified used car dealers, where the vehicle is reconditioned and usually sold with a warranty, reducing overall risk. But the car will be more expensive compared to regular dealers. 

Inspecting the interior and exterior

Make sure you check the car in a bright area, if possible in direct sunlight which will show small dings and scratches easily. Check all the panels to make sure the paint matches. Small dents can help you negotiate for a lower price. Also, check if all the panels match perfectly and if all the doors/boot/bonnet open and close properly. If there are any paint mismatch spots or uneven panel gaps, the car must’ve been in an accident at some point. You can also check for paint overspray in obvious spots like under the bonnet and engine bay. The tires should be checked next for uneven wear and age. 

If the exterior checks out, the next step is checking the interiors. Other than the usual wear and tear spots, check for broken panels and test out all the features and switchgear like air conditioning, radio, steering wheel controls, and more. 

Also, check for any musty smells, check under the carpet for signs of water damage. If the carpet feels damp, then there could be water ingress into the cabin or the car could’ve been flooded at some point. 

Do a thorough check in the engine bay for any leaking gaskets or hoses. Check all fluid levels and check if the oil is filled to the correct mark. If the oil has milky residue in it, chances are, the head gasket is blown which could be an expensive repair. 

Does Mileage Matter?

As a general rule of thumb, a car left unused will usually have more issues than a car used regularly with timely maintenance done. There have been several reports about car dealers rolling back the odometer to get a better deal. If the mileage and price seem too good to be true, then chances are the odometer has been rolled back and you should walk away from the deal. Also, check if the car comes with maintenance records. 

Vehicle History Report

You can get a complete vehicle history online at many websites by paying a fee. If you’re strongly considering a car, it’s a good idea to check its history to make sure there are no hidden incidents.

The VIN can also be checked to see if it matches up to all the documents. Websites like NHTSA will reveal any recalls on the particular model by submitting the VIN. Moreover, VINSPY can also be a great consideration in this regard. 

Test Drive the car

Once you zero in on a car, take it for an extensive test-drive. Check if all the warning lights come on when the key is turned to the “ON” position, and if any lights come on during the test drive.  If possible, cold start the car to check if there are any unusual noises when the engine is warming up. During the test drive, check for any strange movements, noises, and temperature spikes. Make sure you drive it both in the city and on the highway. Once done, check underneath for leaks. It is normal for a car to drip water from the condenser, but if you find any dark liquid under the car, its mot probably an oil leak that will need to be addressed. 

If possible, take the car to a known mechanic who can thoroughly check the condition of the car and find hidden issues if there are any. 

Negotiating a fair price 

If the car passes all the previous checks, then the next step is to negotiate for a fair price. Look around the internet and at other dealers to see how much the car goes for and negotiate accordingly. Small blemishes like scratches and dents can reduce the value of a car so negotiate accordingly. There are a lot of online tools at your disposal to check dealer prices for every model, including KBB and National Automobile Dealers Association Guides. 

Also, avoid rushing when purchasing a car. Take your time and do a lot of research to avoid any headaches in the future.

Following these steps may help you find a great deal for a car that meets your needs and your budget. 

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