We all know that cars are expensive. Buying or leasing a vehicle, then insuring it, paying tax on top of that, then paying for any time something goes wrong, the whole ordeal adds up to a significant amount. The thought of cutting costs by buying second hand is very tempting. But second hand cars can be a minefield. So follow this essential guide to make sure you’re prepared and in the know when you buy your used car.
The most obvious and essential part of buying a used car is selecting the right dealership. The quality of the cars on sale, the price, and the service, all entirely depends on how knowledgeable and responsible your dealership is.
There is a sweet spot to look out for, that’s mid-sized dealerships, preferably with a few branches in your area. That means they’re local enough that they’re far less likely to rip you off, yet successful enough that they’ve got a good selection of cars driving in and out of their forecourt.
Search each dealership before you go in person and find some reviews online. This is the easiest way to establish trust. You can hear people’s first hand experiences and see how their used cars have been running after some time on the road.
Even better still is a dealership who handles both new and second hand vehicles. That way you know you’re trading with people who are experts in the process and are putting care into the vehicles they sell. Waxahachie car dealership is a fantastic example of the right dealership to go for. When you’re confident in who is selling you a car, you’re going to be far more confident in what you’re driving.
You should always have a list of quality checks in mind when checking out a used car. Check the mileage to see if it’s consistent with the condition of the car, it should also correlate with some of the paperwork you’re shown.
Look out for any obviously worn screws or instruments that may have been played with by previous owners. If anything looks like it’s been tampered with in somebody’s garage, it’s a huge red flag. If you’re in any doubt, you can always look into on site vehicle inspectors who will do a full test for a fee.
You can see signs of crashes by looking out for inconsistent paint or wax finishes. You could even check under the carpets inside the car to see if the color has been completely changed. Who knows what a full paint job is hiding underneath?
This should have been dealt with by the dealership, especially if you followed our advice on the first point, but you should still check the lights, wiper blades, and tires yourself. Check the trunk to make sure your emergency gear is in there, like a spare tire and a jack.
Any good dealership will offer a test drive, if they don’t ask you if you want to try the car, then start asking yourself why they don’t want you to drive it before you’ve paid. Ideally you should pick a good, clear day to go looking for a new car, good light and dry weather will give you a much clearer idea of the quality of your drive.
The test drive is an essential step to find any problems with the car. You should have a route in mind from the dealership, ideally a 3 or 4 mile loop that incorporates hills and highways. That way you can check the brakes, power, and steering. If you’re in any doubt then give the brakes a gentle test on a quiet stretch of road.
Keep the radio off so you can look out for unusual sounds and keep a stable but light grip on the steering wheel so you can feel any vibrations or unwanted wobbles. Try to drive as straight as possible for a few hundred feet to test if the car pulls to either side.
Most importantly, try to enjoy your test drive and give the car a chance. At the end of the day you’re going to want to buy a car that you like to drive.
An essential part of buying your car is ensuring you have all the correct paperwork. Unfortunately, a fraction of second hand cars are stolen for an easy payday, and the last thing you need is your car being impounded as evidence. The paperwork should also tell you about any work the vehicles had, and any accidents it may have been involved in.
One of the most important documents you need to see is the bill of sale. This document is completed by both you and the seller and it ensures that the vehicle is legally yours. It should include the make, model, and production year of the car, the VIN or Vehicle Identification Number, the date of sale, and the signatures of all involved.
Before buying the car you should complete a VIN check, which will search records and find out whether the vehicle has ever been in an accident, stolen, or worse. You should never skip this step if you want to avoid being stung later down the line.
If everything is in order then you may have found your new car! The only thing left is the transaction itself. If your dealer is reputable then this shouldn’t be a problem, but you should always be cautious when handing over large amounts of cash.
Before you pay, try searching for other similar used cars for sale with the same mileage to make sure you’re paying a fair price. Remember, with most used car deals there is some room to haggle your price, so don’t be afraid to ask.
You should insist on a bank transfer and never take out cash to pay for a vehicle. This leaves you open to a lot of troubles, and the bank transfer itself leaves a solid paper trail in case anything happens.