Buying Tips & Advice
How to buy a used car?
Used car sales have gained momentum in the past several years, in
response to not only steady increase of new car prices, but also
improved durability and longevity of previously owned vehicles.
It has also became more appealing to buy a used vehicle due
to the fact that brand new car loses a large portion of its
purchase value the minute it leaves the showroom.
With benefits, however, come several pitfalls and buyers have to
be extra cautious when buying a pre-owned vehicle;
you do not want to be stuck with a problem car!
The situation, however, has improved over the past few years
with the introduction of pre-owned certification programs.
Determining the quality of a vehicle by a simple test-drive is
simply not enough. After weeding out non-credible sellers and
vehicles that aren't worth professional inspection, it is highly
recommended that the vehicle is examined by a licensed professional.
Prior to visiting the dealer or the owner of the car it is
very important to ask questions over the phone. Write down the
answers that the seller gave you and compare for inconsistencies
with answers you receive when you visit. Should any appear it
is clear that the seller is concealing information about the
vehicle and it is time make an exit. Always ask questions of a neutral
nature so as to not imply the answer. Consider asking the following
Why are you selling the vehicle?
Are you the original owner?
How many miles/kilometers are on the odometer?
What is the condition of the vehicle?
Has the vehicle ever been in an accident?
Do you have service records?
How much are you asking for it?
We recommend that you don't ask for the price of the vehicle
up-front and ask other questions, to keep room for price negotiation later.
Inspecting the vehicle
The condition of the vehicle is the most important factor to
consider when choosing a car. The price of the car would vary
greatly depending on how the vehicle has been cared for. Before
you invite a professional to inspect the vehicle there's a
checklist that you can go through yourself. What you are looking
for is major problems with the vehicle to rule it out as an option, or smaller
problems (tires, light bulbs, etc.) to use as arguments at the
negotiating stage. It is important to remember that you should
ALWAYS inspect the vehicle in daylight, as it is very easy
to miss certain problems in insufficient lighting.
Dents & Rust
Carefully walk around the vehicle paying special attention
to areas around and on the bottom of doors, around the wheels and
wheel wells. If there is any kind of bubbling of paint, it means there
is rust, which will most likely result in an expensive
repair down the road. Try using a fridge magnet on the panes of
the vehicle and on places in question. If it doesn't stick, it
means the non-metallic bodyfiller has been used and most likely
the vehicle has been previously damaged. Pay special attention to
the way the hood, doors and trunk close. If the spacing isn't even
or the doors, hood or trunk don't close on the same pane, it is
certain the vehicle has been previously damaged in a motor
vehicle accident. Look for signs of fresh paint or color
inconsistencies. Remember, minor scratches (that you COULD deal
with) are great tools when negotiating a price.
Tires are great indicators of how the car has been previously
cared for. When inspecting, look for uneven wear, an indicator
that the car is out of alignment, and/or has been previously
damaged. If the tires are worn, that would help you at the
negotiating table. The same goes for the brake pads and rotors. Make
sure that the tire wear is consistent with odometer reading.
Question everything that doesn't make sense to you.
The overall condition of the engine can tell you a lot about
the vehicle. Signs of oil or other fluid leakage is something
you should watch out for. Check for rust on strut towers to which
the front suspension is attached. If you see any signs of fresh paint,
that could signal previous damage to the vehicle. Check oil levels
in the engine by pulling the dipstick. Low oil levels would
indicate that the car hasn't been getting the care it deserves,
something that could haunt you in the future. Complete your
check up by starting the engine to make sure it starts
Once you complete these simple checks, it is time for a test
Prior to taking off, get into the car and make sure that you are
comfortable. Make seats and mirror adjustments, check the
distance to the pedals, steering wheel, shifter, ensure the
vehicle has enough head room. Make sure the vehicle has
sufficient visibility, try driving in reverse.
Once on the road, check for acceleration and braking. Does it
have enough power? Make sure it doesn't make unhealthy noises.
Does the transmission shift timely and smoothly? During braking
hold the steering wheel lightly, see if the car pulls to one side -
a clear sign of problems. Do the breaks squeak? Does the brake
pedal or steering wheel shake or vibrate? All of these things
are signs that there are major problems with the vehicle's suspension
and/or braking system, which will cost you dearly in the
Take the vehicle off-road. Is the ride smooth and are you in
control of the vehicle? Ensure the suspension doesn't make a
clicking sound or bounce when you go over bumps; this is an
indicator of leaking struts.
Once you're back from the test-drive, thoroughly go through the
checks mentioned before again, to ensure no additional leakage appears.
Listen to the engine running - are there any strange sounds?
Make sure the exhaust is clear. Ask for vehicle's VIN and ensure
that the paperwork corresponds to the VIN on the actual vehicle.
Compare the owners name in the papers with the seller's
Proceed with price negotiations. Rather than asking for a deal,
bring up all the shortcomings that you have noticed. Every
detail is worth a reasonable discount, and the seller understands
that. It is also a good idea to verify the asking price with
the Blue Book. When the price is agreed upon, it is
time to call your mechanic to come and inspect the vehicle.
The seller should have no problem with this, unless he's trying
to conceal something that you haven't noticed already.
If you follow these steps, you're likely to
select a car that you will enjoy for years to come.