When you start your search for the perfect used car it’s important to remember applying good research will lead you to finding the right car. Even when you are in the midst of car shopping you don’t need to be an expert on all things cars, used car shopping just requires you to use a little bit more of your common sense. A major key into your research is having the ability and knowledge to spot potential problems and determining how reliable a used car is.
There are plenty of used cars on the market, so knowing when to walk away can save you from expensive automotive headaches down the road. The following recommendations can help you find the best value in a used car while avoiding one that will be unsafe and costly down the road.
Check the Vehicle History
One of the main indicators on how a used car has been treated in the past is the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. Checking a VIN decoder chart is a quick way to see if a used car’s VIN information matches up with what the seller is providing in the vehicle title and records. There are numerous VIN decoders available online, including this one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The VIN number is also a good way to be able to see if there are any recalls on the vehicle.
A vehicle history report can help you see title problems, ownership history, service points and previous accidents. You can get a vehicle history report online for a fee by entering the VIN or license plate number. If you’re buying through a car dealership, they may provide a history report for free.
Take a Test Drive
The dealer or individual should have no problem lending you the car to have it inspected as long as you leave identification. Being able to go for a test drive will not only help you decide if the car will be a good fit for you, it can help you determine the condition of the car. When starting the engine, listen for any tapping or clicking sounds that are outside of the normal noise when starting. While driving the car, be on the lookout for anything that may be out of the ordinary. By driving on different types of road conditions, you can see how the car handles and if the transmission shifts smoothly. Make sure to note any unusual engine or brake noises, and whether all of the electronics in the car are working properly.
Many times the way the car has been maintained by the previous owner is more important than its mileage, it’s still something that should be considered when looking for a used car. Since certain parts of the engine don’t last forever, a car with high mileage may have more wear and tear than a car with considerably less miles.
Inspect the Car
No matter whom you buy from, always look over the vehicle thoroughly and, if possible, take it to a mechanic for a complete inspection. A thorough and complete diagnosis by a professional mechanic should run you around $100.
On the exterior of the car, besides looking at the general condition of it, the two areas of focus you should give your attention are the the tires and paint job. Car tires in good condition should be worn evenly throughout all four tires and any feathering or uneven wearing could indicate a bad alignment. A good trick that indicates the condition of the tires is to do the penny test that will help tell you if the car is in need of new tires. In general, dents and scratches are more of an annoyance than they are a problem. But even if they don't appear to be serious, they may be a clear sign that the car has been in an accident. Check the vehicle’s trunk and all doors, make sure that they are in-line and open/close fine. Throughout the exterior inspection, look for any signs of rust and look under the car for no rust or other damage. This could be a great job for a professional mechanic if you want to be certain that all areas are thoroughly inspected properly.
While inspecting the inside of the car, right away look for any signs of damage like rips or stains. Regardless of the time of year, turn on the air conditioning and then the heat to make sure that both are working accordingly and able to reach the desired cabin temperature. In fact, make sure to turn on everything that could potentially be faulty. Lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, audio systems, make sure all of these features get your attention while inspecting the interior. Other features that should be checked and can be found in most make and models are the automatic windows, locks, and seat adjustments. Again, it’s always important to make sure that the odometer mileage is the same as the person you are buying from told you. When you first open the car door, sniff the interior and check the lighter and ashtray for signs of smoking. Some odors, such as mold or smoke, can be very hard to get rid of and one of the easiest things to notice that this car may not be for you.
Under the Hood
When the car engine is cool and safe to open, look for any signs of visible damage like cracks, dents, and rust. These can all be signs that the car was either poorly maintained, is damaged, or unsafe to drive. Check the fluid levels to make sure they are not empty. You can check the transmission fluid by pulling the ring at the end of the dipstick to remove it and be able to see a pink or red fluid. To look for a leaking head gasket, remove the oil cap and make sure that a foam residue on the inside does not appear. Keep checking the engine for leaks or corrosion. On the engine block, look for any dark brown oil stains. This will indicate that there is a leak in a gasket, and could possibly lead to an expensive repair in the future. Inspect the hoses and belts for damage. There shouldn’t be any cracks or obvious signs of wear like fraying or discoloration.
Visit the #1 Used Car Dealer in the Twin Cities
No matter if you've been planning to purchase a new vehicle or need one in a pinch, everyday at Poquet Auto is a great day to get a great price on a vehicle. As the leading pre-owned car dealer in the Twin Cities, you’re sure to have a great experience when you visit Poquet. From the moment you step in the door, our professional staff will help you find the best vehicle, no matter the make, model, or price you’re looking for.