7 Important Things to Check When Buying a Used Car

January 20th, 2020 by

Back in 2016, used car sales hit an all-time high with an estimated 41 million used vehicles changing hands!

According to the financial blog, Nerd Wallet, you can save upwards of $100,000 over your lifetime by buying used rather than new cars. However, you may spend just as much on repairs for your used car as you would on a new car.

Don’t go used car shopping without a little know-how, or you might end up with a lemon.

Always go to a reputable dealer and follow our list of things to check when buying a used car!


1. Find Out the Vehicle History

Before you get your heart set on a used car, ask the current owner or salesperson for the vehicle history. When was it first purchased? How many times has it changed hands?

Use the vehicle identification number to find out if the car has ever been in an accident or if the model has any recalls. You should also do a little research to find out what the car is worth at this point. This will give you a general sense of whether or not you’re getting a good deal or being ripped off.


2. Inspect the Frame

Align yourself with the car and visually inspect it for signs that the doors and fenders aren’t sticking out at odd angles. Make sure that all doors and the trunk can easily open and close.

If the lot isn’t paved over even ground, ask if the dealer will drive it somewhere level. Look to see that the car is sitting evenly.

Check the front and rear bumpers for dents or dings. Apply a small amount of pressure to both to make sure that they’re attached properly (indicating that they haven’t been hit).

Finally, check the undercarriage for dangling parts.


3. Pop the Hood

It doesn’t take a mechanic to spot serious flaws under the hood.

Check the engine for signs of fluid leaks, cracked or dry rotting belts or hoses, and corrosion.

Next, look at the transmission and oil dipsticks. What you want to see is light brown oil and reddish-pink transmission fluid. Discoloration of either could indicate that there is friction under the hood that is generating internal heat.


4. Take Note of Mileage

People have a tendency to assume that low mileage is good mileage when it comes to buying a new car, but that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, each car has a different sweet-spot when it comes to mileage, and there are a lot of factors to consider.

For starters, low mileage may indicate that the car wasn’t used very often by its previous owner. When a car isn’t used consistently, important rubber and plastic pieces under the hood and undercarriage can dry out and become brittle, which means they’ll need to be replaced.

Vehicle history will also have an impact on the way that mileage affects the car’s condition. 75,000 miles on flat highways will do a lot less damage than 75,000 miles in the mountains or in the city, where cars will experience a lot more internal wear.

Ultimately, a well-maintained car with moderately high mileage is in better working condition than a neglected car with low mileage.


5. Look for Uneven Tires

If you need to replace the tires on your used car, it’s not the end of the world. Tread wears down over time, and sharp objects get embedded in the rubber, leading to the more frequent need for air refills. However, the condition of each tire can tell you a lot about how the car performs on the road.

If the tires aren’t worn evenly, that means that the car has a bad alignment. This could be the result of issues with steering, the frame, or the suspension, all of which are expensive to address.


6. Take in the Aesthetics

When you’re in the market for a decent used car, the aesthetics may be the last thing on your mind. However, some aesthetic issues could be indicative of more significant problems, and some are just unpleasant to deal with.

Check the paint for chips and scratches, which often result from backing into or sideswiping things. Look for rust on the exterior as well and don’t purchase a car that has areas that are rusted through completely. Rust spreads and will eat holes in the body of the vehicle.

You should also inspect the upholstery. Look for stains, tears, or cracked leather. Damaged upholstery doesn’t reflect the car’s mechanical maintenance, but it could impact your comfort level while driving.


7. Take it for a Spin

Of course, you should always perform a test drive. This is the best way to get a feel for the car and how it brakes and accelerates. This is also the only way to ensure that the steering is still in good condition without having a licensed mechanic take a look at it.

Plan a quick route that will reveal the car’s performance under a variety of circumstances. How does it do on inclines and sharp curves? How is the acceleration when you merge onto the highway, and how responsive are the breaks when getting off?

While you’ve got the keys, test out the electronics. Make sure the radio and other music-playing devices are working well. Nobody likes to drive in silence all the time, and those electronics can be pricey to replace!


Bring a List of Things to Check When Buying a Used Car

Our last bit of advice is to bring a physical list of things to check when buying a used car. The process can be stressful, especially if you’re working with a pushy dealer who’s going to make you haggle. Don’t lose sight of what’s important because you’re stressed out by this major decision!

Want to work with dealers who are always honest and never pushy? Contact us at Viking Motors, and we’ll get you on the path to your perfect used car!

Posted in Buying a Used Car