Protecting Yourself When Buying a Used Car

Protecting Yourself When Buying a Used Car

Ensuring Your Safety When Buying a Used Car

Having a car is more than a want for many people. For individuals who require a vehicle to work, it’s an absolute necessity. At the same time, there are a few factors that make purchasing a used car especially challenging right now. Let’s investigate what steps can be taken to protect yourself when buying a used car. 

Protecting Yourself When Buying a Used Car

Why Is Protecting Yourself When Buying a Used Car Important?

There are few purchases you’ll make in life that are more expensive than a vehicle. Outside of a home or paying to further your education, buying a car is right at the top of the cost pyramid—regardless of whether it’s new or used.  This, of course, was the case even before supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic sent used car prices to the moon. According to a report from Car and Driver, “the average used car costs around 35 percent more today [December 2021] than it did at the beginning of 2021.” That is a massive markup in an incredibly short period. 

As you can see, the cost—and thus, risk—of purchasing a used car has skyrocketed in the recent past. But the fact that used cars have become more expensive isn’t the only thing that makes it so you have to protect yourself when buying one. The reason auto prices are going up is largely linked to a discrepancy in supply and demand. Since demand for used cars is so much higher than supply right now, sellers realize they can ask for a premium price.

At the same time, buyers are more willing to purchase a vehicle faster and by putting forward less due diligence, which can open the door to scams. Even if someone isn’t intentionally trying to rip you off, feeling you have to make a decision quickly or lose your opportunity to get a vehicle can lead to less-than-optimal choices. 

Know What to Do and Look for Before Buying

  • The first step in purchasing a used car is narrowing down your search to a few makes and models that fit your needs. You should then do some research to find if there have been any common issues associated with any model years of these vehicles. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to start looking for a car.  
  • Not everyone is an expert on cars. But even if you don’t know how to change your oil, there are things you can look for that might send off red flags when you’re looking at a used car. 
  • There are tons of places where you can buy a used car, but not all of them are equally reliable. It’s a good idea to start by looking at some of the best-used car websites. Each of these will have some pros and cons over the others. Looking at a few different sources will help you get a better feel for what you can expect to pay for your vehicle. After you’ve searched for a while and found some of the most attractive options, you’ll want to go take a look at some of these cars for yourself. 

Important things to notice and check

It's important to remember that the source from which you purchase a used vehicle can be as critical as the make and model. Purchasing from a site like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace can potentially get you a great deal. But you might also end up with a total dud and no recourse for recovering your money. Some used car dealerships are wonderful; others are highly suspect. No matter where you go, you’ll want to look out for these used car red flags.

  • New tires on a low-mileage vehicle: Tires can last a long time. They’re also quite expensive. Someone isn’t going to replace the tires before selling a car unless it’s necessary. If a used car has less than 20,000 miles but has brand-new tires, it should raise some questions in your mind. There’s typically no reason why a car that has been used this little would need new tires unless it’s been in an accident or the previous driver was hard on the vehicle. 
  • There are odd interior smells: Odors inside of a vehicle and mean a lot of things. The best-case scenario is usually that the previous owner smoked in the car, which isn’t a great perk. It can also mean things much worse than that, though, such as mold or mildew—both of which can be challenging to remove from a vehicle. These kinds of odors can also be indicative of more serious damage potentially caused by floodwater. Cars that have been in hurricanes or other natural disasters can be tricky to identify for those without experience. You must determine the history of the vehicle, though, as flood damage can ruin a used car over time. 
  • Look at the lights: You of course want to make sure that all the lights are working on a used car before you buy it. If lights don’t work even after replacing the bulbs, this can indicate wiring problems. There are a few things that can cause this, but flood damage is one of the big concerns here. Furthermore, moisture accumulating inside exterior lights can also be a sign a car has survived a flood or hurricane. Don’t walk, or run away from any used car you suspect has experienced severe water damage.  

All of these red flags can alert you right away if there’s something off with a used vehicle. But this isn’t going to be enough to ensure it’s the right car for you.

Call a Trusted Mechanic

Unless you work on cars for a living, it’s smart to have a trusted mechanic look over a used vehicle before you decide to buy it. The key word here is “trusted.” Don’t let the seller convince you to have their mechanic look at the car. It should be extremely concerning if they continue pushing for this, or won’t let you have the vehicle inspected by your mechanic.  Having a trusted professional do a full investigation can help you identify any serious problems before you get stuck with a car.

While these things are particularly important when buying from an individual or used car lot, it’s worth pursuing even when you have a CarFax History report and a warranty on the used car.  As used cars continue to become more and more expensive, protecting yourself during the purchasing process is of the utmost importance. Learning the key points to staying safe while buying a used car will help you get a great deal and avoid a dud.

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