Shopping for a used car can be exciting and scary at the same time. The prospect of driving away in a flashy new (to you) ride is intoxicating…but if you aren’t careful, you can make mistakes that cost you money, or result in buying a car that you’ll be “stuck” with for a long time. Here are some tips from PennySaverUSA.com on 5 mistakes to avoid when buying a used car.
#1: Not Thoroughly Inspecting The Vehicle
Don’t let a shiny paint job fool you. Potential problems can be hidden, and you owe it to yourself to be diligent and tough with the seller so you don’t get ripped off!
David Hays, a 25-year automotive industry veteran and former owner of Wrenchmasters in Rockville, Md., says that even if you aren’t a mechanic, you can inspect the car yourself, and there are specific things you should look for.
“On the exterior, look for oil or other fluid leaks under the car, odd wear or worn-out tires and new or different paint,” Hays says. “A car that has been painted indicates crash damage and is a red flag. Crash damage can be extensive or minor but always affects the value negatively. Look for ‘orange peel’ paint on body panels, paint fading at different rates on different parts of the car, irregular gaps in between body panels and overspray on weather seals.
“Pop the hood and look for cracks on the back of drive belts, excessive black crud under the oil fill cap, which indicates a lack of oil changes, and stickers under the hood,” Hays says. “If there aren’t any stickers, the hood panel may have been replaced, a red flag that the vehicle was in an accident.
“During the test drive, listen to the exhaust,” Hays says. “Does it sound normal and not overly loud? Make sure the blower (fan) works, and the power windows and locks are functional. Check to see if engine lights or other dash lights are on. On a level road, does the car track straight if you were to remove your hands from the steering wheel? Does the car drive to one side or does the brake pedal pulsate when braking?”
#2: Not Getting A Vehicle History Report/Mechanic Inspection
Services such as CarFax or AutoCheck can provide you with a complete vehicle maintenance record and accident history for the vehicle (provided the previous owner kept proper records of course), which can alert you to any potential problems the seller may be keeping from you. And if the seller doesn’t allow you the opportunity to have a qualified mechanic inspect the vehicle for any potential problems, that should be a red flag to you that they may be hiding something, and the vehicle might be one to avoid.
#3: Not Doing The Research To Make Sure The Price Is Right
The internet has made shopping for a used car a LOT easier than it used to be. You can do a ton of research before you ever go look at a car…finding out what common issues that model might have, or getting a firm idea of what people are paying for the model you’re looking for. Websites like Kelley Blue Book allow you to input the features and mileage of the vehicle you want, and find out what the fair market value is. Having this information in hand when you go talk to the seller can make a world of difference when it comes to negotiating a price, and how you feel about the transaction afterwards.
#4: Don’t Find Out How Much The Insurance (And Other Extra Items) Will Cost Before Deciding
A very common mistake people make before deciding on which car to buy is not finding out how much it will cost for other things like insurance and “wear and tear” type services. Insurance costs can vary widely from one vehicle model (or insurance company) to another, so do your homework and find out how much you’ll be spending every month for insurance, and get some idea how much typical services will cost.
#5: Exceeding Your Budget
According to FortheFirsttimer.com, even if you did your research, evaluated your needs, arranged the financing, there’s still the possibility of entering the dealership, only to let yourself get talked into the kind of car with a price tag that is much more than you have budgeted for. So stay with your budget, and ensure that you can really afford the vehicle you want to buy, thus avoiding buyer’s remorse or getting in too far over your head.
If you do your homework, and walk up to the seller’s house or a dealership armed with the information you need to make an informed, wise decision about the vehicle you’re interested in, you’ll have the power! And when you drive away in your spiffy new ride, you’ll know you made the best deal you could, and that a few months later you won’t be kicking yourself for a bad choice!
Andy Poston is the Marketing Services Manager at PennySaver USA, California’s leading resource in print, online, and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, local coupons, classifieds, and business listings.