There is almost no reason to buy a car new. As soon as you leave the dealership, its value already takes a heavy dip. You can buy a car that’s only a year older and much cheaper. However, the used market is full of its twists and turns. The most dangerous of all is when you realize that you came home with a lemon. Here, we’re going to look at how to responsibly navigate the car used market, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Give it the once over

It’s good to come to the dealership or the owner-seller as the case may be, with some insight on the vehicle you want to look at. Know it’s running costs, its reliability, its value, and how much it depreciates as it ages. Then, when you get to see it in person, make sure you know what to look for. This used car inspection checklist shown at The AA can highlight all the little visual checks and simple diagnostic tests that any buyer can make without the need of a mechanic. If it doesn’t pass this inspection, that’s a good indicator the seller has not taken good care of their car, and you’re only likely to find more damning evidence as you go on.

Ask for a second opinion

That initial face-to-face and inspection can help you determine whether or not you should even spend your time worrying about that auto. If it passes, however, don’t assume that it’s all good just yet. A pre-purchase car inspection is crucial. You need the help of a good mechanic willing to look under the service and carry out a range of diagnostic tests. If there are underlying issues with the vehicle, you shouldn’t immediately assume that the seller was trying to cheat you, but you can use that information to negotiate the price a little more.

Get behind the wheel

Even if it passes muster on all the checks, tests, and trials that you can throw at it, you shouldn’t buy a car without first getting an idea of how it feels on the road. Even if it works perfectly, you might not like the noise produced while you’re inside, how it handles, or more. Carrying out a test drive effectively is mostly about more diagnostics, but it’s also wise to take it for a long enough spin that you can get used to the feel of it and figure out whether there’s anything about the drive that might prove an annoyance down the line. There’s nothing like a little hands-on experience to clear things up for you before you buy a used car.

Not all used cars are the same

You can find used cars just about anywhere, from auctions to independent sellers to online marketplaces. However, some dealerships do offer a little extra reassurance that you’re buying a car worth buying. At places like West County Volvo Cars, you can look at certified pre-owned cars. Unlike cars that are simply “used”, certified vehicles are guaranteed to meet a certain level of standards. Make sure you understand exactly what those standards are before you buy into anything, but in general, certified pre-owned cars are inspected and tested comprehensively for any issues. What’s more, certified cars come with warranties, which you might not get if you buy a car directly from the previous owner. Even if you’re buying used, it’s worth paying a little extra for the guarantee of quality.

Learn its history

There’s a lot more to a car than what you can tell from looking at it, driving it, or even having it inspected. In particular, you should be concerned about the car’s history. Using its VIN (vehicle identification number), you can run up plenty of details about its past with sites like Vehicle Check USA. This can include how many owners it has had, whether it has been in any accidents, and service/repair history. However, one of the key reasons to perform a background check on any used car you’re looking at is to ensure that you’re not buying a car that has been stolen or written off. You could get into some trouble if you’re caught driving in a car that you shouldn’t be.

Check for all the extras

As a car owner, you might be able to attest to how easy it is to lose some of the most essential extras that you get when you first buy a car. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting them now. Most important of all is the paperwork. You shouldn’t leave without a copy of the sales contract under any circumstances, but you should also ensure you have a fully up-to-date logbook detailing past repairs and maintenance. This can help you not only ensure its quality but can help you retain its value by keeping up with the recommended maintenance. It’s good to make sure that you have any spares, such as keys or tires, as well as the owner manual.

Understand all the costs

When buying a family vehicle, costs should be at the forefront of your mind. This includes not only the costs of buying and financing the vehicle but also the running costs. How much can you expect to spend on keeping it fuelled? How does your choice of car affect your insurance premiums? How reliable is the car and are there any replacement parts you can expect to buy within the next couple of years? Every car comes with its costs, you just need to know what they are in advance as best as possible and to make sure you’re not buying a car that’s cheaper now, but worse for your budget in the long run.

The used car market might be a little riskier than buying a brand-new auto, but the truth is that doing your research and choosing wisely greatly mitigates your risk in both. Hopefully, the tips above ensure that you avoid the sour taste of a lemon and end up with a car you’re glad to own for a long time to come.

Greg Kononenko
Greg Kononenko

My name is Greg Kononenko and I am a full-time online blogger and owner of Dad's Hustle. I'm a dad, and my passion is to help other mums and dads to start their own "hustle" and improve the financial future of their families.

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