What to Look for When Buying a Used Car Jan 25, 2016 by Darren (Driver Weekly)

Buying a used car for those not mechanically minded can be a stressful and challenging process. It’s often a case of letting the buyer beware because there is no guarantee the seller will be 100% honest and divulge all reportable problems. Here are several precautions that can be taken to minimize the risk of being left with a complete lemon.

Research the future vehicle

Get a good idea of the type of vehicle you want and start researching the makes and models to help identify the most promising candidate. Use this research time to make sure the preferred car is a reliable brand/model that gets a lot of praise from the automotive industry and user feedback. Also, gather valuable data as the price range, features, trim, availability, etc. Once a reliable model has been identified, it also helps to check for well-known mechanical issues or recalls that have been reported.



Have a budget in mind

It is worthwhile calculating how much you can invest in the next vehicle. Also, if the trade-in value of the old car isn’t expected to be much, it might be more practical to look at selling it privately, which can result in a better return compared to a dealership. Plus, this extra cash will make it possible to leverage a better deal when you have cash in your pocket.

Test drive

A thorough test drive is a must-do part of buying a used car and lets you know how it runs and handles. Give the electronics like the air conditioning or power windows a test to make sure everything is fully functional. Use any defective electrical components or other issues as a bargaining tool to help negotiate a lower price. But, for the car with a long list of deficiencies, it generally pays to walk away and start the search for the preferred vehicle from scratch. Because the seller isn’t likely to openly divulge all potential issues, it makes sense to make a list of specific questions to ask on arrival at the inspection to ensure nothing is missed.

In-depth examination

Give the vehicle a thorough examination inside and out. In the process of conducting the inspection make sure to point out defects such as rust, dents, scratches, missing trim, excessive interior wear, etc. to the seller. Use a light under the car to help detect oil leaks and rust. Also, open the hood and inspect the drive belts and engine for signs of oil leaks. While it isn’t likely the used car will be immaculate, it makes sense to avoid vehicles with excessive wear and tear, rust, and mileage. For those that aren’t mechanically minded have the car inspected by someone who is more knowledgeable to give the extra peace of mind.

Warranty and service history


Many of the latest car models come with certain warranties that are transferable to the new owner. For instance, a vehicle may start out with a 5 year, 100,000 KM powertrain warranty and a 3 year, 60,000 KM comprehensive warranty which can be transferred. Plus, there are other extended warranties available and it is worth discussing these issues with the seller. Also, whether buying from a dealership or private seller, ask for a copy of the service history to check the vehicle has received regular attention and maintenance as appropriate.


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