What to look for when buying used cars

What to look for when buying used cars

As everyone knows, new isn’t always best

New cars are expensive, and you can only buy new cars through car dealers. On top of that, you have to deal with the cost of depreciation the moment you turn the keys.

With that unfortunate reality in place, people are seeking affordable car options more and more – particularly in the used car market. As more and more cars are entering the market from rental car companies like Hertz going out of business and selling their vehicles, finding that sweet deal becomes a much easier task.

However, there are important considerations beyond mileage and price. Two of them are reliability of the make and model, and the history of the individual vehicle before making a decision to buy.

Checking a car’s reliability rating

Finding out how reliable a car is before you buy it is always a good first step. It’s easy to find information on general car brands, and you can even find information on specific makes, models, and years.

Reliability ratings are based on data about common car problems submitted by consumers. Some notable car ratings are from Consumer Reports and Edmunds. However, keep in mind that these sources only consider vehicle failures like engine or transmission problems. Costs for repair parts or other expenses aren’t counted.

  • Consumer Reports Reliability Ratings: Consumer Reports conducts a survey every year to find out which cars are reliable and which ones are not. The results become reliability ratings. This survey looks for issues both major and minor that cause expensive repairs and loss of vehicle use.
  • Edmunds Used Car Ratings: Edmunds uses a different method from Consumer Reports to create their ratings. Rather than using consumer data, Edmunds performs its own testing. It’s useful to compare cars to each other for size and price.

Using both sources to factor into your decision is a good idea. When you balance a fair price with a reliable vehicle, you’re more likely to be happy with the car you purchase.

Know the car’s maintenance history

When you buy from a used car from the dealership, you have a better chance of finding out the car’s true history.

Some things you should be wary of:

  • Major accidents
  • Flood damage
  • Salvage titles

Don’t just take the seller’s word on this, however. Ensure you get a verified history of the vehicle in question. Most dealerships have this information readily available, and you can easily access this information online before going to the lot or finding a used car being sold privately.

Bonus: get a second opinion from your mechanic!

No matter how much independent research you do, nothing beats having a trusted, trained mechanic look into a used car to see if anything was overlooked. A good mechanic will spot any serious issues even if the car’s history isn’t accurate.

Ask your mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection when you get to this point. He should check the interior and exterior of the vehicles, and probably take it for a test-drive to ensure the engine and transmission are working properly.

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