Most people will have to buy a used car at some point. College students, families with more than one driver, and retirees are among those looking for a reliable vehicle when they shop for a second-hand car. Here are some things to look for while browsing pre-owned cars for sale.
Consider the mileage of the car you want to buy. Although high mileage may be a concern, highway driving is less wear and tear on a vehicle than city driving with numerous starts and stops, so ask where and how the car has been driven. It also helps to know if the present owner is the only one or if the car has been owned and sold by several previous owners. A vehicle that has been passed from one owner to another may have an uncertain history as to how all those miles racked up.
Ask about the car’s maintenance record. Not all owners keep one, but it really helps if they do. You can find out whether the car had the manufacturer-recommended oil changes, tire rotations, and filter replacements. Other maintenance like wheel alignments and new brakes provides useful information. If the owner doesn’t have a written or digital maintenance record, ask questions about the car’s upkeep.
A visual inspection of the used cars you are interested in can reveal much. Does a car have rust spots, dings, or scratches? Physical marks might not impact the way a vehicle drives, but they may reveal the owner’s careless operation and lack of upkeep on the car. Cracked windows and dented fenders can contribute to this impression. Even if the price is low, the operating value of the car may be questionable.
When the owner starts the engine for a demonstration, listen for unusual sounds. Hissing, screeching, or engine tapping could indicate a problem. A car that backfires or that has a loud muffler means that a repair will likely soon be needed. Find out how long the sound has been occurring and what, if anything, the owner has done to fix it.
Most buyers will request a test drive of a used car before making an offer to buy it. Notice how it steers, turns, and maneuvers on the road, especially uneven surfaces like a gravel driveway. Check all the dashboard lights and indicators as well as the daylight running lights and bright lights. See how the gas pedal and brake feel, and make sure the turn signals are working properly. It doesn’t hurt to test the horn.
Looking at used cars can give you a reliable vehicle at an affordable price. However, not everyone cares for their cars as well as they should. Thoroughly evaluate any used car you are thinking of buying. Otherwise, after the purchase, you might realize you’re stuck with a lemon.