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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

10 Tips for Buying a Used Car

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

With the economy being in a downturn, everyone is looking to save money.  That goes double when it comes to buying a car.  Since new automobiles lose as much as 20% of their value in the first year alone, savvy buyers look to save money by buying a used car.  That being said, before you sign on the dotted line and drive off the lot with a lemon, there are a few things you need to know. When you realize the average cost of a used car is now $33,000 according to Auto Week, if you want to make sure you get your money's worth, here's what you need to know.

#1: Know what you want before you set foot on the lot.  Since acquiring an automobile can be one of the most expensive purchases you will make, you want to make sure you get one that's right for you and your family.  That means taking into consideration everything from seating capacity, available options, and fuel efficiency to the down payment and monthly car payments.  Armed with these factors you'll have a much easier time culling the herd to find the ride that best fits your needs.  Fail to do so and you run the risk of purchasing a vehicle that you'll soon come to regret.

#2: Talk to your insurance agent before you purchase a used car.  Aside from finding what the insurance cost differential is going to be on your next car, your agent can also help you determine which cars hold their value the longest, what vehicles are the safest, and how long a particular make and model can be expected to last.

#3: Is it better to buy from a dealer or a private owner? When it comes to saving money, you'll almost certainly get a better deal from an owner.  That's because an owner has no overhead to recoup whereas dealers do.  However, before you buy a used car from a private owner you need to make sure you know why they are selling and you need to have your financing lined up.  You also want to make sure that any warranty on the vehicle is transferable.  If not, you may wind up paying a lot more in maintenance than you expected.

#4: Beware of bait and switch tactics. While it's a snap to point and click your way to listings galore in your local area, make sure the offers are legitimate before you drive over to a dealership to discover that the vehicle you were interested in is no longer available.  This underhanded tactic has been used since the industry began.  If you see a deal that's too good to be true, then it usually is.  Don't let a dealer steer you to a vehicle you didn't intend to buy by offering a pie-in-the-sky deal that won't come to fruition.

#5: Should you consider buying a car that was previously leased?  Since most dealers lease vehicles for 2-3 years, buying one that's off-lease can be a win-win situation. That's because a previously leased vehicle is usually driven less than one that was privately owned due to the terms of the lease  It was also covered by the manufacturer's warranty for the duration of the lease and should still have many years and miles remaining on the warranty. 

#6: Insist on seeing a vehicle history report. Before you take a used car for a spin, you need to know if it's worth your while.  The only way to do that is to learn about the vehicle's history.  This way a seller won't be able to hide the fact that the car was involved in an accident or was submerged in a flood. If the seller refuses to let you see a CarFax or an AutoCheck report, your best bet is to peruse other listings before you wind up buying a lemon.

#7: What to look for in an inspection. After you've taken the time to talk to the owner and eyeball the vehicle's history report, it's time to take the car for a spin, right?  Not so fast.  Before you fire a vehicle up, you should walk around it looking for dings, dents, scratches and chipped paint.  You need to make sure the doors, the trunk and the hood open and close smoothly.  You also need to check the condition of the tires (including the spare), the battery, and the undercarriage.  Is there anything leaking from the vehicle?  Do all the electronics function?  How about the interior and exterior lights?  Do the windshield wipers and the washer work?  Are the carpets and seats pristine or are they stained or smell of mildew?  How well does the air conditioner and heater work?  Do the power windows and the sunroof open and close smoothly?  In short, before you take a test drive you need to ascertain that everything in the vehicle functions properly.  

#8: What do you need to look for in a test drive?  Only after you've determined that a vehicle is mechanically sound is it time to take a test drive.  Does the engine start smoothly when you turn the key?  How high is the idle speed?  Does the engine purr along, or do you hear any hitches in the engine note as the car idles? Do you see any warning lights illuminated on the dashboard? How do the brakes feel before you put the car in gear?  Does the emergency brake hold and release smoothly?  When you shift the vehicle into gear, do you hear any noise from the transmission?  Do the gears change smoothly or does the car lurch from one gear to another.  How well does the vehicle accelerate from a standing stop? When you hit the brakes, do the wheels lock up or does the anti-lock system function properly?  How does the steering feel at slow speed and at highway speed?  Do you feel the car pull to one side or do the wheels track straight and true?  If you make a u-turn, do the tires squeal or does the steering make any odd sound? When you realize you may own a vehicle for years, it make sense to take 30-minutes to make sure that it performs as it should.

#9: Should you have your mechanic go over any vehicle you're looking to purchase.  Absolutely.  No matter how car conscious you are, a trustworthy mechanic will spot things that you would never catch.  Not only does a mechanic have a lift that lets him look underneath a vehicle, he can also connect any vehicle to an electronic analyzer that can alert him to malfunctions you could never detect.

10: Make sure the vehicle has no encumbrances against it.  Last but not least, you need to ascertain that the title is clear and there are no liens against a vehicle.  Fortunately,  you can do this by entering the VIN into your DMV's database.  Here's the link if you live in Florida.  This way you won't run the risk of buying a car that can later be legally seized by a creditor.  Don't fall into the trap of using a vehicle's license plate since these can easily be switched from one vehicle to another.   If an owner refuses to divulge the vehicle's VIN, it's time to shop for another used car.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at

1 comment:

  1. These tips came in handy when I bought my last vehicle. I appreciate you publishing them.


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