There are a number of reasons why buying a used car makes a lot of sense. If you consider that a brand-new car will lose as much as 30% of its value in the first year, it becomes clear that buying used will save you a considerable amount.
It can also mean you get more bang for your buck; a new car with all the trimmings and extras you want may be beyond your budget, but a two or three year-old model with everything you want might not!
There are some things you should check when looking at a used car, whether a private sale or from a dealer, so here are the most important things to look for:
Finance – Check if the dealership offers finance on used cars. People only think that finance is available on new cars, but quite often its available direct from the dealership and they can sometimes help you out no matter what your situation is.
The VIN – let’s begin with the most important thing, the Vehicle Identification Number. This is a unique identifier given to every vehicle manufactured anywhere in the world. Find an agency that can check it for you and for a small fee you can find out everything about the car, from where and when it was manufactured to its specifications, and check its history thoroughly.
View in Daylight – make sure you view the car when visibility is good; you need to look for any signs of damage – the VIN should return if the car has been damaged and repaired at any time – and ask about them. On older cars, you can expect some blemishes and marks that come about from daily use. Also, make sure you can start the car from cold, even dealers will warm up a car so that any problems when cold cannot be noticed. Check the tyres for wear as some sizes can be expensive, and remember to check the spare too.
Drive it – never buy a used car without a test-drive. Remember to run some distance with the window lowered to listen for any untoward sounds. Read up about the model beforehand and learn how it should feel – road tests are abundant and are very useful – and test the brakes and steering, plus the overall ride of the car. Look also for warning lights on the dashboard.
Service History – a used car of just a few years old should come with a full service history – as well as the handbook and spare keys – so walk away if this cannot be provided. This is very important, as it signifies the car has been well-maintained.
Does Everything Work – electronics on modern cars can be very difficult – and expensive – to fix, so check that windows, lights, wipers, air conditioning, sunroofs, in-car entertainment and any other such features are in working order. Don’t take any excuses, you want to buy a car that is fully operational and won’t cost you money to fix!
Safety – Older and used cars do not boast the safety aspects that modern cars do, and while owning a vintage vehicle is the dream for many, you must also ensure that the setup is safe to drive. This will give you more confidence behind the wheel (as well as anybody in the passenger seats), and reduce the risk of encountering issues four hours into a 12-hour road trip. As car laws have changed over the past 50 years, you’ll need to make sure the car is Street Legal. This includes removing or remodeling anything that does not align with vehicle regulations, so you won’t get pulled over the first time you get on the road.
The basic rule is to examine every feature of the vehicle. Read up about the model and what to look for – the internet is a wonderful resource for this – and remember to take someone with you who understands cars if you are not confident.