until you’ve had it inspected.
New car sales in 2015 hit a record and industry analysts are predicting very strong sales in 2016 & 2017 which could lead to a decrease in value for the used car market. While this is bad for car dealers, it’s good for car buyers.
Before you buy a used car you need to have it checked out by a qualified mechanic.
My grandfather had a saying about used cars, “Why would I want to buy someone else’s headache?”. Cars have come a long way in terms of reliability and life expectancy. The average age of a car on the road today is close to 12 years old.
I’ve seen it too many times – someone goes out, buys a used car and gets stuck with a headache that has major issues. Just because a car looks good and drives halfway decent does’t mean that the engine, transmission and suspension are in good shape. I feel badly for these folks, but they should have it inspected first.
Whether you are buying from a private seller or used car lot, do your homework and follow these steps:
- Contact the seller before heading out. Ask some general questions about the vehicle and why they selling it. How long have they owned it, what have they done to it? Accidents? Schedule a time to view the vehicle.
- Research the car and its reviews. Learn about common problems and what to look for.
- Inspect the car’s exterior. Look for damage and signs of an accident. Check under the hood and look around the car’s interior. Basically, you are looking for any issues that jump out.
- Test drive it. Take it for a 7-10 mile test drive on city streets and the highway. Listen for noises and check for vibrations. Check the heater and air conditioning. Check for smells too.
- Gut check time – if everything has passed your tests, inform the seller that you need to have the vehicle inspected by your mechanic.
- Have your mechanic look the car over and scan it for any codes. This inspection will take about an hour and costs anywhere from $45 – 90. It’s money well spent. Following the inspection, your mechanic will walk you around the car to point out any major areas of concern.
- All good? Negotiate your best price. Check KBB.com, eBay, and Craigslist for used car values.
I tell my clients that there are plenty of good used cars on the market and you may have to look at a few prior to finding the right one. Remember that if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.