Five Lesser-Known Used Car Buying Tips That Will Save you Money in the Long-Run

October 21st, 2016 by

used car buying tips

When considering used cars for sale, it’s a well-known fact that you can never be too careful. Doing a thorough inspection, test-driving it, and possibly even getting it inspected by an independent mechanic are all things consumers know to do. But, there are a few things you might not know about that you can do to save yourself a future full of headaches and a drained bank account. After all, used cars have wear and tear on them, which means something is more likely to go wrong with them compared to new. So, taking advantage of every little clever trick in the book is a great way to help minimize the risk when it comes to buying used.

Then again, there is a risk in buying new cars as well. But enough banter, here are five lesser-known used car buying tips.

Always Follow-Up on any Minor Damage

While this might sound like it’s well known, there are plenty of times where consumers will brush off a small rust spot or some funky looking paint at the behest of the dealership. Don’t do this. Unless of course, the dealership told you about it up front (or it was in the description online) and it truly is nothing to worry about.

But, if you find yourself checking out a used car that all of a sudden magically has a rust stain appear, and the salesman tells you that it’s nothing, that’s a red flag for two reasons. One, it means the salesman or dealership is lying to you, and might be trying to hide something about the car. Secondly, it could potentially mean there is more serious damage that’s been done to the vehicle by its previous owner.

How can this be? Simple. If you see off-colored paint or a dent, it could be a vehicle that’s been in an accident, then reconditioned to a more passable-looking condition. If this is the case, you have two options. Have an independent mechanic inspect it, and ask if there is any accident damage. Inspecting it yourself won’t do, simply because the mechanic will most likely have more expertise than you in this field. Alternatively, you can skip the hassle and just look at another dealership.

Whatever the case, always follow up on any dents, dings, off-colored paint, or anything else that might indicate there is something off about the vehicle. Don’t just let the salesman brush it off. You can also ask for a vehicle history report to see if the damages mentioned match up with what you’re seeing on the car.

A Check Engine Light Can Indicate an Expensive Repair — Don’t Ignore It

A check engine light pops on for many reasons. It could be electrical, related to the engine or transmission, or even because of an air filter that’s plugged. But, on average, a check engine light can indicate an expensive repair. Typically, the repair cost for a check engine light popping on is around $400.

Therefore, if you are looking at a used car and see the check engine light pop on when driving, don’t buy it. It’s one of those situations where it’s better to be safe now, rather than sorry later. It’s also important to note that some of the more unscrupulous car dealerships will take the car out for a spin beforehand, so that any issues that a vehicle might have after a cold start go away when it comes time for you to test drive it — because, it’s already been warmed up at that point. Which is why it’s always a good idea to get it inspected by an independent and trusted mechanic.

If the Deal is Too Good, That Should be a Red Flag

If you pit dealerships again each other in a string of e-mails to get the best deal possible for the model your interested in, or head over to the dealership to look at a used car you saw in the inventory that’s part of a sales event, that’s okay.

What I’m talking about is heading over to a used car dealership, and seeing a car sitting on the side of the lot that’s priced unnaturally low compared to the others sitting around it. Sometimes, it is possible to just stumble on a good deal unknowingly. Unfortunately, those instances are few and far between. If you’re ever unsure about the price of a car, the best thing to do is check out Kelly Blue Book. Plug in the car’s information, and compare the price of the one on the lot to the one KBB shows you.

If it’s way underpriced, chances are there is something wrong with it and the dealership is just trying to get rid of it. Remember, there is such a thing as a deal that’s too good to be true.

Flood Damage is a Real Threat, Look For It

Typically, used cars aren’t region specific. What I mean is, sometimes dealerships buy them from auctions out-of-state and have them shipped in. This is an especially common practice for those dealers who have the ability to find cars across the nation. While this isn’t an issue if you’re shopping at an honest car dealership, it can become a very real problem when you have a dishonest salesman.

Why? Because of flood damage. Especially with the bout of hurricanes that have been hitting the southeast lately, this is a very real threat when trying to buy used cars in 2016. How do you check for flood damage? By looking at the underside of the car for severe rust, and if the trunk is “rotting” away, or smells like mildew. On top of that, cars with flood damage can also have messed up paint on occasion.

You don’t want to end up unknowingly buying one of these vehicles, since they come with a world of problems — on the inside, outside, and even under the hood.

There are a Few Clever Ways to Check if the Odometer is Truthful

Finally, one more thing that many people don’t know are the ways to see if the odometer is (relatively) truthful. A good way to do this is check the brake and gas pedals. A vehicle that has a shiny, worn spot on the bottom right corner of the brake pedal indicates a lot of use. After all, it’s not like metal shoes are constantly grating up against the finish. Therefore, if the odometer reads 50,000 miles and the brake pedal, floor mat, gas pedal, and seats look worn-in, chances are the odometer got rolled back.

Hopefully, reading this gave you insight into a few of the lesser-known ways to protect yourself from getting a used car that’s either a lemon, or being marketed as something that it’s not. In general, it’s always good to be overly cautious when purchasing vehicles. Not just because there are some dealerships out there looking to make a quick buck off of someone’s misfortune, but because it’s also your responsibility as the buyer to protect yourself.

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