The Fast Lane: What to do when buying a used car

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For many of us, our first major purchase in our lives will be our cars. Though, with the high price of new cars today, it’s much more affordable to purchase a used car instead. However, the used car market is a particularly shady business, and while it is a more sensible fiscal option, a prospective buyer must still be vigilant when looking around. Here are a few ways to avoid buying a lemon.

 

Run a Vehicle History Report

Running a vehicle history report is a key step when buying a used car. A vehicle history report will detail all the ownership and service history as well as outline the title status and any previous accidents. Many vehicle history reports like CarFax are available for purchase and these reports are typically very well-detailed and pulled from massive databases with billions of records.

 

Check the Title

When buying a car from a private party, the first thing to look for is the title status. It is typically advised to stay away from cars with salvage titles as those cars have most likely been involved in some sort of major accident where the insurance company deemed the car too costly to repair in relation to the value of the car. Cars can be salvaged for other reasons as well though such as hail damage, vandalism, flood damage or theft. Running a vehicle history report will tell you the status of the title and some vehicle history reports will even tell you why the car has a salvage title.

 

Visual Inspection

When you go view the car in person, carefully examine both the interior and exterior of the car. A common sign that a car has been in a fender bender is if the gaps between the body panels on one side of the car are bigger or smaller than on the other. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t consider a car that has been in a fender bender, but with a professional body repair, you’ll hardly notice any imperfections. Take a look into the interior and upholstery as well and make sure it was well taken care of, as this generally is an indicator of how well the vehicle was taken care of overall. Be sure to open the hood and make sure there are no visibly cracked hoses or rusted parts and be sure to look underneath the car for any sort of leaks.

 

Go for a Test Drive

Going for a test drive is a common step when considering a prospective car, but there’s a lot to be aware of when taking it on the road. It’s generally a good idea to drive the car on both city streets and on the highway as you can see how the car behaves at different speeds and how well the brakes react and perform. On the local roads you’ll get a good idea of how the car handles on sharper turns and how well it shifts between gears. Keep your ears open for any sort of unusual sounds coming from the engine, steering and brakes and be sure that all the electronics on the car such as cruise control, headlights and windshield wipers work.

 

Have it Professionally Inspected

Once you’re set on a specific car and are ready to make a purchase, it’s a good idea to have a mechanic inspect the car before purchasing. A professional will be able to tell you what immediately needs to be done on the vehicle and potential troubles spots down the road. A mechanic may also be able to assist you in determining the true value of the vehicle.

 

Negotiate

Barring any major issues with the vehicle, you can use the minor problem spots you found in your inspection to haggle and negotiate for a more fair purchase price on the car. A useful tool for negotiating a fair purchase price is Kelley Blue Book; simply go to their website and input your make and model as well as mileage and condition and their online tool will generate a ballpark price. Apart from all of this, it’s best to take your time when looking for a car by doing thorough research and negotiating for the right price to ensure you’re getting a good deal and avoiding buyer’s remorse.

 

Are you in the market for a new or used car but don’t know where to start? Reach out to me at thefastlane.highlander@gmail.com and I’ll help you with the search.

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