So you’ve narrowed down your list of second hand cars to choose, and you’re sold on one of them. Sure, it may be selling for a good price and the pictures posted by the seller look promising, but it pays to take a few more extra steps to make sure that the vehicle you’re set on buying won’t turn into a headache or money pit down the road.
After all, a car, whether used or brand new, is the second biggest investment for most people. You want your purchase to last you years and give you the most bang for your buck. Does lower mileage mean that it was rarely used? Or was it sitting so long that it never ran in the first place? Let’s consider the following when shopping for your next big purchase.
1. Inspect the vehicle
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t buy any vehicle without seeing it for yourself, and with your own eyes. Unless you’re an impulsive buyer and have money to burn, buying a vehicle based on pictures alone can be a very risky endeavor.
So, make sure you check the car during the day or in a well-lit area so you can thoroughly inspect the paintwork and assess for any damage or scratches. Are the tires expired? Are there signs of heavy body repairs? If there are signs of repair or the seller informs you of an accident, make sure you see the documentation that the repairs were done properly and by a reputable shop.
The interior needs close inspection, as well. Look for any cracks in plastics or tears in fabric. Always verify any repairs with the seller, and, if in doubt with his claims, have another pair of eyes go over the vehicle with you, preferably someone who is familiar with the vehicle you’re looking at.
2. Any leaks?
With the owner of the vehicle, park it in a clear, dry spot and have it run for about a minute. Then move the vehicle away from the spot you parked. Inspect the area where the vehicle was sitting for any fluids. Black fluid might be an indicator of leaking oil, green fluid may indicate a leak in anti-freeze, and pink fluid may indicate a leak in the transmission.
This could lead to big repair bills and replacement parts further down the road.
3. Go over the vehicle history
Make sure you obtain the documents pertaining to the service history and ownership history of the said vehicle. In cases of deeds of sale, make sure they are notarized and the accompanying photocopied ID’s of previous owners are included.
Check the veracity of the certificate of registration and original receipt to identify any issues such as encumbrance (this means the vehicle is not paid off completely by the owner at time of purchase, which is risky) and the last year it was registered.
Has the car been serviced at the correct intervals at a dealership or reputable shop? Are there missing documentation when it comes to previous owners? All very important questions.
4. Consider a certified-pre owned vehicle
If you have the option, consider a pre-owned vehicle that has been given the seal of approval by a dealer. This means that the vehicle in question has been checked, verified, and steps were taken to make sure that it is indeed a reputable purchase. Plus, the dealer will usually throw in some incentives such as an extended warranty or servicing packages.
This basically means that any pre-owned vehicle is a much safer option because a dealer puts its name and stamp of approval on the line, so consider this when looking for a good used car.
5. Bring a trusted mechanic along
When inspecting the vehicle, it’s always a good idea to have a person you can trust and who is a trained mechanic to go over the vehicle. This is to make sure you don’t miss out on any small details that could entail big costs down the line, such as engine parts, full replacement of components, or, worse, corners were cut to save on money but compromise safety.
Have the mechanic list down any potentials things that need replacing or any red flags about the vehicle, such as signs of flooding or major repairs from an accident.
6. Test drive
It’s always best to take the car on a test drive on both surface streets and highways. In different environments, you can get a good feel for how the car responds and performs. In the city, you can feel how the car shifts and responds to turns, as well as get an idea on the condition of the brakes with stop-and-go driving conditions. With a trip on the highway, you can see if the engine runs smoothly.
While on a test drive, keep your eyes and ears open. Make sure to note any unusual engine or brake noises, and whether or not all of the electronics in the car are working properly.