What to Know When Buying a Used Car


When considering whether to repair their car or replace it, many people ultimately decide to replace a car that is showing maintenance problems.  Given the costs of a new car, many of those people opt instead to buy a reliable used vehicle.  There are many advantages to doing so, although there are some things to look out for as well.  Here are just a few things to keep in mind.

Buying from a Dealer

If you are buying authorized used car from a dealer, you get a few benefits.  First, the car will have been inspected to ensure that it meets certain standards, and it will come with an extended warranty.  Another advantage is that it may be possible to arrange financing or even leasing from a dealer, which could make things easier to arrange.  A possible down-side, depending on your budget, is that authorized used cars from dealers will still be relatively late-model cars which means that they will come with fairly hefty price tags.  Another consideration is that you are limited to the stock that the dealer has on hand.

Buying from a Private Seller

There are several advantages that come from buying a used car in a private sale.  Perhaps most importantly, they will tend to have a lower price tag because they may not be late-model or because the seller is motivated to sell quickly, and because a private seller does not have overhead to consider. On the down-side, it may be more difficult or complicated to obtain financing, especially for an older car; in any event, the owner may prefer only to accept cash.  Another major issue to be aware of is that you will need to be very careful to check the history of the car to make sure that it has not been in an accident, and to make sure that it is not stolen or subject to liens.  In addition, be sure to have a certified mechanic inspect the car before the deal is signed.

Research, Research, Research!

A great advantage of purchasing a used car is that you can – and should – conduct your due diligence to make sure that you aren’t buying a lemon.  Get as much information about the same make and model vehicle as you can, and find out if there have been any known recalls, performance issues, or mechanical problems before you buy.  Find out when maintenance costs begin to kick in, and consider your purchase in light of this repair schedule.  If possible, try to find reviews written by someone like you – for example, if you are a mother of small children, try to find reviews about relevant issues, ie., ease of installing car seats, whether strollers can easily fit into the trunk, safety features including child-lock doors, etc.

Safety Features

You cannot assume that many of the safety features – airbags, anti-lock braking, backup cameras – we take for granted on newer vehicles will be available on older models.  If these are important to you, find out how the vehicle you are considering is equipped.  It may be possible to retrofit vehicles with certain safety features, but you want to know for sure before you buy.

There are many advantages to purchasing a used vehicle.  Just be sure to do your research and make sure that you are well-informed about the process and the vehicle.