Buying a brand new car that is free of trouble and previous history is not always an option available for everybody. Sometimes, a used car can also be a great buy if you know how to select the right one. If you are thinking of getting a previously-owned vehicle for yourself or for a family member, here are some pertinent information you might find very useful.
1. Get the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The VIN is essentially the key to knowing a car’s true history. Some information you can find out if you know the a particular car’s VIN include any incidences of accidents, wrecks or salvage efforts; flood damage, lemon histories and odometer rollbacks, if any; results of state emission inspections and lien activity; and history of vehicle use whether it was private, rental, lease, etc. In some instances, it is even possible to turn up records pertaining to repair and service history. To get the VIN, you can either look at the car title, or check under the windshield on the driver’s side.
2. Research common problems related to the model and make of a particular car you are considering. Almost any vehicle has some issues or weak spots. You can check out car reviews, enthusiasts forums, and other sources. Doing research will provide you with a good idea on what experience other owners are having and will give you specific items to look out for during a test drive. In addition, you will be able to make an informed decision on whether you can live with certain issues or would prefer to pass up on them and look for another model or make instead.
3. Be prepared for the used car inspection. Bring with you a paper and pen, a printed copy of a used car checklist that you can access online at most automotive sites, a small but powerful flashlight, a small magnet, some paper towels, and a CD. Use the paper and pen to jot down important notes such as the VIN, mileage, car features, asking price as well as what you like and do not like about the car. These notes will prove very handy not only for the selection process but will also provide you with bargaining points during the negotiation of the deal. The used car checklist should be followed to ensure that no items are inadvertently left out during the inspection. Do not forget to check under the hood and into nooks and crannies, using the flashlight and magnet to check for leaks, corrosion, and hidden spots where corrosion repair may have been done. Use the CD to check stereo function. Sometimes, sellers deliberately omit to provide a CD when trying to glaze over a stereo defect.
4. When giving the car an inspection, be very thorough and take your time. Check the car body for any signs of collision or repair. Some subtle evidence that the car has been involved in a collision include ripples or uneven areas in the paint. Cars that have been involved in serious accidents often show problems later, even if they have undergone extensive restoration. Other major items to check are the tires, the condition of the interiors, the airconditioning/ heating system, all the electrical accessories such as power windows, and the transmission. Take extra steps to ascertain that the car itself has not been in any flood. Flood damage will eventually cause you a lot of expenses in repair, so be observant. Telltale signs that the car has been in a flood include mold on the interiors, a certain smell of mildew inside the car and trunk, and badly-corroded metal parts under the seats. Take out the spare tire and check whether there is any water and corroded debris trapped in the spare tire well. If the engine oil or transmission fluid appears like milky coffee, you may as well cross this one out.
5. It is a good idea to bring along someone knowledgeable about cars to help you with the inspection. And it is common sense to ensure that the person you bring along has absolutely no vested interest in the sale. If you do not have a mechanic-savvy friend, hire a trusty professional for a weekend gig.