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What Should You Watch Out For When Buying a Used Car?

Investing in a vehicle is always a big decision. Buying the right vehicle is as much about taste as it is about practicality. Especially if you’re in the market for a used one. It’s easy to be swept away by the used car of your dreams, but failing to take the proper precautions can turn the experience into a nightmare.

Thankfully, knowing which questions to ask, and which answers to look out for, is easy work. Inspecting a used car for red flags can be simple too. Today, we’re going to take a look at the essential questions to ask, and steps to take, ahead of parking a brand-new-to-you car in your driveway.

Look Under the Hood

Lifting the hood of the car, and understanding what you’re looking at isn’t as complicated as most people think. Consumer reports features a helpful guide, and recommends only inspecting the engine when it’s cool.

You can check hoses by squeezing them, check fluid levels in accordance with the vehicle’s manual, and be on the lookout for oil spatter, rust, or loose wires. Though dust and dirt is normal, liquid on or under the engine could signify a serious problem.

Find the Vehicle History

Learning more about a vehicle’s accident and ownership history is important. Thankfully, getting it is usually as simple as asking the right questions. Most used car dealerships should have all of the necessary answers and paperwork on hand. But finding out more on your own is pretty easy too.

It doesn’t matter if you’re at a car dealership or pursuing a private sale, every vehicle has a Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. Searching that VIN online can be done for free, and will reveal any previous insurance claims, or if it’s ever been reported lost or stolen.

Examine the Exterior

The exterior of a vehicle is about more than style. Its condition is essential to your safety. Sloppy assembly, shoddy workmanship, and hidden defects can be spotted with a careful eye. Circle the vehicle while inspecting each panel for dents, odd paint colors, and rust. Pushing down on each corner of the vehicle is a great way to test the suspension. Don’t forget to examine each lift, and pane of glass for chips and cracks.

Inspect the Interior

You should expect to spend a lot of time getting to know the inside of whatever car you decide to buy. It’s why you should take the time to inspect every inch of the interior. We recommend sitting in every seat to test how each one feels and as a way to examine the cabin from different angles.

Test every adjustment knob and press every button you see. Inspect the safety belts, check the glove compartment, and play around with the sound system too. Though offensive odors are hard to ignore, know that the smell of smoke or mold are incredibly difficult and expensive to get rid of.

Check the Tires

Always inspect the tires of any used vehicle that you intend to buy. The information hidden away within can reveal a ton about the car in question. Uneven wear across the width of the tire could signify a vehicle that hasn’t been properly maintained, or alert you to the potential of suspension issues. While fast wear on the outside of the tire often denotes an aggressive driver.

Drive It

Taking a car for a test drive is one of the best parts of the car shopping experience. It gives you a real sense of what the vehicle feels like, including how touchy the pedals are, how comfortable the seats are, and how you feel when in the driver seat. The best deal doesn’t mean much if you don’t like how it drives. Which is why you should always insist on a test drive.

Test drives can reveal a lot of critical information about a vehicle to those that know what to look and listen for. Test out the stereo and interior tech. Try the wiper blades, lights, windows, locks, and the heating and cooling system. Familiarizing yourself with the model ahead of time can help inform you questions and heighten your senses too.

Take It to a Mechanic

Of course you could avoid all of the trouble by taking the vehicle to a mechanic that you trust to have them inspect it. Dealerships don’t usually have a problem loaning the car out for a few hours of professional inspection. If a private seller is reluctant to let you deliver the car to the shop yourself, offer to follow behind as they drop it off themselves.

A pre-purchase inspection can cost as little as $100 and as much as $250. Either way it’s worth the investment. For that money, they’ll look at the engine, exterior, radiator, belts, hoses, fluids, brakes, and tires on your behalf. Get alerted of potential problems, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a professional opinion.

Drive With Confidence

If you do plan on inspecting the vehicle yourself, consider making a checklist ahead of time. By writing down the tips mentioned above along with anything else you would like to remember should help keep you on track.

Buying a vehicle sure can be fun. But spending another Saturday in the waiting room at a local auto shop is not. Avoid potential problems by taking proactive steps to inspect your investment. Your future self will thank you.