When you buy a used car - especially if you’re buying it from an individual, it’s imperative that you do your due diligence to ensure that you are buying what you think you’re buying. Even if you’re buying from a dealer, always check out these ten things before buying the used car.
1. Get the Carfax – You can order a Carfax for the vehicle you think you want to buy by getting the vehicle identification number. The car faxes aren’t very expensive and are a good way to avoid problems with purchasing a lemon or a car that has been refurbished after floods and other natural disasters.
2. Ask for Maintenance History – Responsible car owners often keep all their maintenance records. The reason is that it’s the only way to prove what was done to maintain the car in case of warranty issues. But it’s also a great way to get top dollar for a trade-in or private sale to prove regular maintenance.
3. Check for Paint Damage – Especially nowadays with the awesome paint and materials that most cars are made with, paint damage is often a sign of a previous accident. If there is paint damage, make sure you find out why.
4. Check for Rust – Like other types of damage, the existence of rust can be a sign of a severe problem. Most cars don’t rust these days. If there is rust, you need to know why so that you can negotiate a fair price.
5. Frame Issues – You often cannot check this yourself, but if you get your car inspected before buying it, a good mechanic can tell if there is frame damage. This can happen from wrecks, so if there is an unreported wreck or problem with the vehicle, you want to avoid it.
6. Look under the Hood – Even if you know nothing about a car, look under the hood to check for cleanliness. Look around the battery to see if there is corrosion or rust inside that you can see. Also, check for leaks, taped up hoses, and other signs. Take it to a mechanic before buying once you feel that you want it.
7. Check the Tire Condition – Buying tires is a significant expense that you don’t want to have right after buying a car. Check the tires to ensure they have some life on them. If they have a receipt that shows when they bought the tires, they may still be under warranty, so that info is useful to know.
8. Double Check the Mileage – For one car, 50K miles is going to be acceptable, but for another make and model it might not be so great. Always understand how the mileage affects the value of the car that you are looking at. Also make sure the number matches other information you have.
9. Ensure All Technology Works – Double check the windows, the window washers, the headlights, tail lights, the radio, Bluetooth, the lighter, and every bit of tech inside the vehicle. Don’t assume it works; check each thing.
10. Look at All the Upholstery and Interior – You can often tell how well a car was cared for by looking at the interior and the upholstery. If it’s stained, ripped, smelly, and so forth, did the person care for this car as much as they could have for the price that they’re asking?
Buying a used car is exciting because usually you can get a much better deal than if you buy new. However, you should always act with caution and double-check any facts by doing your research on the make, model, and actual vehicle by getting the Carfax.