Because of the many unknowns in a “previously loved” vehicle, a used car is a more complicated proposition compared to buying new. Follow these 10 steps and you’ll be OK:
1. Get a sense of a fair price.
Some sites allow you to input whether you’re buying from a dealer or private seller, and even specifics concerning a vehicle’s condition and mileage for more accurate estimates. Enter your chosen details for find out the average sales price of the hypothetical car you want.
2. Read owner reviews of the car,
suggests Karl Brauer, senior director of insights for Kelley Blue Book. This way you’ll get a better sense of what the cars flaws are, and what it will be like to own long-term. Study up on the vehicle’s crash test scores and safety ratings too.
3. Check if the vehicle has been recalled.
Consult the National Highway Traffic Administration’s database of recalls, and if the vehicle is on the list, don’t buy until the seller can prove the recall issue has been addressed. According to Carfax, more than 3.5 million used cars were listed for sale in 2013 with safety-related recalls that weren’t fixed.
4. Ask for the car’s vehicle identification number and run a vehicle history report
through Carfax or Autocheck. The report shows if the vehicle has been in an accident or had flood damage, assuming such incidents were themselves reported. Also, the report will reveal if a car’s odometer has been rolled back, or if it has a salvage title, meaning it’s been declared a total loss by the insurance company.