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3 Hot Tips for Buying a Used Car

Used Car

Photo Credit: Flickr/John Lloyd

3 Hot Tips for Buying a Used Car

By Carolyn Hauck on September 24, 2015

Deciding to purchase a used car can be a rewarding experience. With a little research, you can get the car that’s right for you at a price that’s right for you. However, the big worry with used cars is that you’ll drive off the lot or away from someone’s house with a lemon. We asked top mechanic on JustAnswer, Dave Nova, to give us the 3 top things to watch for when buying a used vehicle.

1. Do a thorough inspection of the vehicle

Check the vehicle over for signs of previous collision damage. Specifically, you should be on the lookout for a bent radiator support or inner fender aprons under the hood. Look under the car for leaks or possible rust issues. Also check to make sure that all fluid levels are properly maintained. You should always have a car inspected by a trusted mechanic as well.

2. Research all maintenance records

Before you get started researching maintenance records, write down the vehicle’s 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) found on the top of the dashboard, on the side of the driver’s door and any other place you see it on the car. Make sure to write down all instances of the VIN and check to make sure they match up. If they don’t match up, be wary of the seller. If they do match up, you can plug the VIN into sites like Carfax and/or AutoCheck for a report that lists any maintenance history of the car that is on record. These reports will tell you if the car has been in a collision, or you can see if there has been any major trouble with the car.

It’s also a good idea to visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) website to see if there has been any recalls on the car you’re interested in, and if that recall was dealt with.

3. Test drive it for real

Thoroughly test-drive the vehicle. Don't just take it around the block. Drive on the highway and under various conditions to check for proper transmission shifting, warning lights. Check for smoothness of drive, any vibrations etc. Check cruise control and all accessories (wipers, lights, turn signals, etc.) while on your test drive. Listen for an engine noise and notice any steering vibrations. These could signal larger problems.

The bottom line from mechanic, Dave Nova? Be thorough and don’t be afraid to ask the seller lots of questions.

You can find more car-buying tips by reading our What to consider when buying a car blog article, and better yet, if you have your eye on a certain car, talk to a mechanic on JustAnswer about the vehicle. They can give you information about certain makes and models, and what to look for.