While used car dealers have become much more reputable than they used to be, the fact is that you can still get swindled if you are not careful when buying a pre-owned car. What’s worse is that there are actually folks out there who will still actively try to pull the wool over your eyes and sell you a car that will fall apart once you’ve driven it down the block.
While having a mechanic you can trust makes used car shopping much easier, there are some tips we’ve got that will alert you to any potential problems before letting your mechanic give it a once over.
Knowing a Winner from a Loser
Let’s face it, at the end of the day, there are just parts of life that we can’t all be experts at. You might consult with a friend before buying a new cell phone or computer, or take a foodie with you when you head to the butcher, but it’s always good to have a baseline, a list of things you know are red flags even if you aren’t an expert.
That goes doubly so for an investment like a used car. Here are some things to keep in mind to save yourself money and frustration the next time you go used car shopping:
Water damage or leaks — Check the base of the windshield by the instrument panel as well as the wheel wells. Either of these places could be a very dangerous source of rust if there are any leaks. The door jamb can also retain water, leading to corrosion. Take a flashlight with you too, as it makes it easier to see in darker areas.
Hidden damage —Keep that flashlight, and take a look into the corners of the trunk and anywhere that you might be able to see where quick and dirty body repairs have been done. Often times these easily-hidden places will give you clues that your potential car has been in an accident that the owner didn’t tell you about.
Excess wear — Check the pedals and see just how worn down they look. While unscrupulous salesmen can find ways to roll odometers back, many don’t think to replace the pedals. If there is an excessive amount of wear there (or anywhere around the pedals, really), be very wary.
Keeping all of this in mind, though, before you commit to buying a car, do make sure you have a professional look it over first. After all, it’s their job to know the ins and outs of a vehicle, and they’ll be able to give you a full rundown of what kind of repairs you can expect to need and when.
January 17, 2013 by Jamie Rettig