Investing in a used car can be a great way to get behind the wheel of a high-quality vehicle without forking over huge sums of cash. Of course, you will still need to be smart when shopping for a pre-owned vehicle. Before you ever close on a deal, you should check the following five things:
It is always wise to do your homework before buying a used vehicle. Get as much info as you can from the dealership or current owner and then run the VIN through a service like AutoCheck or CARFAX. Your report will include details on accidents, liens, recalls and previous owners.
Circle the car and scope for rust. If you can't work a jack, snap photos of the undercarriage with your smartphone. Then get a good look at the body and wheel arches. As you inspect, ask about any paint that seems out of place. Inconsistency in color could indicate crash damage.
Turn off the car and pop the hood. Scan for fluid leaks and cracked belts or hoses. Then check the oil and transmission dipsticks. Oil should be light brown, and transmission fluid should be red. If the car seems OK to you, bring in a mechanic for a more thorough review. You'll have to spend a little money on this, but it will pay for itself in future repairs avoided.
You can tell a lot about a car by the color of its exhaust. With the vehicle running, walk around back and watch the tailpipe. Billowy white smoke means that one of the cylinders is cracked. Blue smoke could indicate worn piston rings. Thick black smoke could be caused by several different things. Bottom line: if it's white, walk away. If it's blue or black, bring in an expert.
After you've visually inspected the vehicle, take it for a spin. Test the acceleration, braking, and maneuverability. And be sure to get on the highway. Some cars are fine until you pick up speed.
It is always wise to be careful when choosing a used vehicle. However, by performing the checks outlined in this article, you can be confident that your new ride is in excellent condition.