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Here’s the deal. I’ve never ever owned a new car. Even as a kid, my parents always bought used cars.
Used cars, however, well they’re valued what they’re valued. Just as everything loses a little value over time so will your used car, but not at nearly the same rate a new car does. For this reason, we always buy second hand when it comes to our vehicles.
Of course, when buying used it means making some compromises. You won’t have that new car smell, and there will be some wear and tear. However, with these tips, you can avoid clunkers and pricey repairs on your ‘new to you’ used vehicle.
Research. Reseach. Research.
A car might look pretty. It might have a cool name. A cool car does not always a reliable car make. This one time we bought a car because it sounded like a fun ride. Well, a day after making our purchase we found the car dying at every stop sign. The fun car was no longer so fun. Lesson learned. Cars.com is a fantastic resource to find reviews of every car you may be considering purchasing. You’ll see pros, cons, and what others think of the vehicle.
Take it for a Test Drive.
Head out on a few different terrains (that you normally drive). If you live in the country with dirt roads, make sure the car you are driving will handle well on the dirt. If you drive more inner city, and freeways, your car should be able to handle higher speeds and frequent stop and go’s.
Call in a Mechanic.
Usually, on our test drive, we’ll run the potential vehicle to our trusted mechanic – one not affiliated with the dealership. For 10-20 bucks you can get a full inspection. Just remember, it is a used car. There will be some problems. The question is how big are the problems, are they problems you can live with? Common problems you will run into with used cars are:
- cv joints
- control arms
- link pins
- brakes – rotors/pads/brake lines
- fluids – deposits in coolant, dirty oil.
Look Up the Car’s History
Every car has a history. It’s a good idea to know what your car has been through. A car’s VIN number can tell you whether the car has been to the dealership for routine maintenance, if it’s been in a crash, and how many owners it’s had. You want a car that has been taken care of with only normal wear and tear going on. Unfortunately, a full history won’t always be available if the previous owners did the maintenance themselves. This would be an area to ask your mechanic to check if the car appears to have been taken care of properly. You can check the history of a car on Cars.com
Check for Recalls
I wouldn’t have thought to check for recalls until the last few years. Our newest used car purchase has gone through not 1, but 2 airbag recalls. Thankfully the company contacts us and replaces everything for free. However, you don’t want to start out buying a car that is full of recalled parts. Ask the dealer if there are any known recalls, and whether they have replaced the needed parts, or if you would need to have that done.
Sleep on it.
And by that, I don’t mean sit on the car. Sit on your decision to purchase. Rushing into buying a used car is never a good thing, no matter how much you may want a car right that moment. Letting yourself sleep on the decision, and coming back to test drive a day or two later will help you see any components of the car you don’t like. If we had waited a bit more, I would have realized just how much I don’t like the small trunk in our current car.
Now you are ready to purchase your car! Congratulations on what should be a reliable car for years to come.