7 steps to buying a reliable used car
That shiny used car you're eyeing may not be such a good deal after all. Here's what to look for before you buy.
This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.
Edmunds.com recently compared the cost of buying a new 2013 Honda Accord EX, leasing the car, or buying a used 2010 Accord EX. After factoring in the true market value of both cars, leasing charges, and current loan terms and rates, they found the total out-of-pocket cost after six years came to:
- Leasing -- $24,768.
- Buying new -- $28,830.
- Buying used -- $20,960.
When you're considering what will cost less to drive, buying used wins, but only if you can keep the car on the road. If you buy a lemon, getting it used doesn't seem like such a good deal.
Here are the steps to take when you're shopping for a used car.
1. Order the title history
Reports like a Carfax history can help you pick between a lemon and a gem, but saying "Show me the Carfax" might not be enough.
ABC News met with a driver who had bought a used truck with a clean Carfax report. Not long after buying the truck, he spun off the road and learned the truck had previous major frame damage. ABC News spoke with Carfax communications director Larry Gamache:
"We have a database of 12 billion pieces of information," Gamache said. However, he added, "we don't know everything about a used car's past."
Carfax reports come from police departments and insurance companies, as well as other sources, ABC News says. While the information shown on the report is certainly helpful, it isn't the full story.
To better protect yourself, order a car title history report from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which shows the full history of a vehicle.
2. Watch out for rentals and demo cars
Rental cars may not have a lot of miles or any obvious damage, but the engine likely has a lot of wear and tear. Be sure to ask the dealership or owner if the car you're considering was ever a rental.
Also watch out for cars previously used as manufacturer test or demo cars. These cars were driven by journalists, public relations professionals and others who are putting the car through its paces, testing its limits and performance. You can ask the dealer if the car was a test or press car, but Car and Driver says to be on the lookout for the phrase "executive demo" -- a fancier way of saying the same thing.
3. Ask for a service history
Ask for a service or maintenance history for any car you're considering. A good service history includes detailed records of maintenance work like oil changes, tire rotations, air filter replacements and other small jobs that keep a car running longer.
4. Inspect the outside
Walk around the outside of the vehicle and look for any dings, scratches, rust or mismatched paint. Open and shut all doors, the trunk and the hood. If you see rust, the car might have flood damage. Mismatched paint and off-kilter doors can mean collision damage. Don't forget to check the roof and inside the doors for paint damage.
Consumer Reports provides a list of signs to look for to make sure the car hasn't been in a wreck. For example, it says a CAPA (Certified Automotive Parts Association) sticker on parts may be a sign of collision repair.
5. Kick the tires
Insert a penny in the tread of each tire with Abe Lincoln upside down, facing you. If you can see the top of his head, the tires probably need to be replaced. All four tires should have even tread wear. If they don’t, Consumer Reports says, the wheels might be misaligned.
6. Check the fluids
Open the hood and check the engine fluids. The oil should be a golden or amber color. Dark or clumped oil is a warning sign. The brake fluid should be clear, and the coolant reservoir should have color-tinted coolant or antifreeze up to the "full" line. If you're not sure how to check the fluids, have your mechanic do it.
7. Ask a professional
Finally, if the used car passes all of the other tests, have a professional mechanic check out it. A mechanic can find engine damage and look for other needed repairs that you won't be able to spot on the lot.
More on Money Talks News:
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This author forgot to tell people to look at the carpet. If the carpet looks to new for an older used car, then that car was probably in a flood. Also look for tattle tale signs of mud and mold. If the car has a musty smell and the owner or sales person says it was sitting up, then be weary. It might have been sitting up, but water could have leaked in around the windows and the windshield. You need to check the rubber gasket that holds the windshield in place for cracks. If the vehicle has been in the sun, then it may have cracks which would be a cause of leaks.
Get down on your hands and knees and check the under carriage for new paint. New paint on a used car can only mean it is either been in water or it has been in a climate that is normally damp. Newly painted under carriage can mean rust on the frame.
I've been looking for a used vehicle for my son for weeks. I've looked at thousands of posts on Craig's List, (and other local car selling sites) and only a fraction were actually worth going to see. They also turned out to be junk, because pictures are deceiving and people lie.
60% of the cars being sold on Craig's List are just a few miles away from major repairs because they are extremely high mileage vehicles. 30% are scam artists. 5% are cars that aren't even being sold, they just want your email address so they can send you unwanted emails. If you are fortunate, there might be 3-5 cars out of 100 that are worth a phone call.
What a huge pain in the behind trying to find a reliable used car from an honest seller!!!
I purchased a loaded 1998 Lincoln Continental two years old w/22,000 miles on it from a dealer in 2000.. real cherry cond.I have 187,000 miles on it. Put in a transmission, two tie rods, rear air shocks,two sets of brakes, ps unit, water pump,three tune ups, two sets of Michelin tires.Also had to replace torque converter again last month.Also some small stuff.I found out the torque converter was the wrong one replaced the first time. Now, Excluding the tires. I would average the cost of repairs including oil changes to about $2,000.00 per year. I have had the car 13 years and feel that this cost may sound high but i don't have any car payments.I sort of know my car. drives great and looks good .Also very safe.I question some of the so called needed repairs. Which would have reduced my Average cost. $26,000.00.and still driving.I would say it is the best riding car i ever owned. After reading some of the comments, I had most of the problems people had.
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