10 tips to avoid getting ripped off on your next used car purchase.

10 tips to avoid getting ripped off on your next used

car purchase.

Buying a used car can be scary. But if you know what to look for, you can have a great experience and save money at the same time. There are many reasons to purchase used over new. Let’s look at three of the biggest reasons.

  • Bang for your buck. You can get more bells and whistles for the money than if you were to purchase a new vehicle. You save because someone else has already taken the biggest depreciation that occurs when a new vehicle becomes used.
  • Your insurance costs may be lower on a used vehicle. Paying less for insurance gives you more money for the car itself. Again it goes back to the “More bang for your buck”.
  • The used cars of today are far better than in the past. They are higher quality and have better warranties and that translates into a better car with a longer life.

Now that all sounds great, but when purchasing a used car, you have to do a little investigating to get a car that will serve you for years to come. So here are some things you should you consider when searching for a used car?

  • How was the vehicle cared for?
  • Was it wrecked or in a fire or in a flood?
  • Are there any mechanical issues?
  • If you purchase from a dealer, what has been inspected or repaired before the vehicle is offered for sale?

Here are 10 quick tips to follow as you hunt for the perfect vehicle. Please remember, these are machines and things can happen at any time, even if they were new. Whether it’s a so called “Econo Box” or a $100,000 sports car, problems can happen from time to time. The trick is to take the proper steps to put the odds in your favor for a vehicle that is going to be there when you need it.

  1. DRIVE THE CAR!!! This, by far, is the most important tip. It sounds cliché. But you would not buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first. You need to know that the engine runs smooth, the transmission shifts properly, and the vehicle drives properly? The best way to find out is when you test drive the vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you have driven the same type of car before. You haven’t driven this one. Also, find a good route to drive. Look for one with highway speeds plus stop and go traffic. If you get lucky, you may even find a bumpy road to listen for thumps, squeaks, and rattles.
  2. Ask for the vehicle’s history. A reputable dealer will have no problem giving you a history report for free. They will most likely be from Carfax or Autocheck and a lot of the time are available on the dealer’s website along with the vehicle details. You can, and should, run your own check if you are buying from private party. Both www.carfax.com & www.autocheck.com reports are available on mobile devices to help with this. You will need the vehicle identification number or VIN to run a report. Please be aware, if an accident did not involve the police or insurance company, neither company will have that information. Both reports are great, but Carfax does give maintenance history if the previous owner maintained their car at a dealer or big chain service center. Also, look carefully for overspray from a previous auto body shop repair.
  3. Ask upfront if a warranty comes with the car. If you are buying from an individual, there may be a warranty that is transferable with the vehicle. A quick way to check is with the history report companies mentioned earlier. They have information on original factory warranties that may still be in effect. If the seller has an extended warranty, check with that company to see what warranty is left and if it can be transferred. Most extended warranty companies will charge a small fee for this. If you are buying from a dealer, there are many choices. Let’s take a look at the most common.
    • Factory Certified Used Vehicles. These are vehicles that have met standards set forth by the original manufacturer. Certified vehicles are backed by the automaker with a warranty that is good at any of their dealerships across the country. Most certified vehicles include 24 hour roadside assistance and some even include a routine maintenance plan. As an added option, you can choose to purchase an extended warranty that works alongside the certified warranty to give you even better coverage and peace of mind.
    • Remaining Factory Warranty. Some used vehicles may still be under the original factory warranty. Warranties and coverage vary. So be sure to ask and even double check yourself what the original warranty is and if it can be transfered. Also find out the original in service date. This will help you figure out when the warranty will end. You can find these dates in the history reports mentioned before.
    • Powertrain Warranty. If a vehicle does not fit either of the previous criteria, reputable dealers will still give a warranty. The most common of these is a 3 month or 3,000 mile powertrain warranty. This covers the large items on the vehicle such as the engine and the transmission. But it does not cover features like the radio, air conditioning, power steering, and so on. Again, you can always choose to purchase an extended warranty for peace of mind with these vehicles.
    • As Is Vehicles. There may also be some cars that look decent and run ok but they are older or have high miles. In these cases, dealers may sell them as budget cars. These typically are sold as is with no warranty. They are not necessarily bad cars. But remember, you get what you pay for.
  4. Inspect the features on the car. Make sure the heat, air conditioning, power windows, and so on all work. If the car has power windows and locks, make sure they work from all switches. If it has keyless remote, make sure all buttons work. Don’t forget the wipers and outside lights. You do not want an accident on the way home with your new car because the brake lights didn’t work.
  5. Check the tires. Are they bald? Chances are if the dealer did not replace bald tires, there may be other issues they did not address as well. That work may cause the price of the car to be too high to sell. Also check how the tires look. Is the tread pattern worn evenly? If not, there could be alignment problems caused by something more severe.
  6. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable with the vehicle and the person or place you are purchasing from. If you are unsure about something, ask. The seller or salesman should have no problem answering all of your questions. If they do, simply walk away.
  7. Ask about an exchange or return policy. This is not that common. But it is becoming a growing trend among dealers as they try and earn your business. If they have a policy, find out what the rules are, if any, so you know exactly what to expect.
  8. Check the Safety Ratings. These ratings are important. So be sure to check them on the government’s website, www.nhtsa.gov to help with the decision.
  9. Know your credit history. If you are financing, find out your credit history and investigate current rates before you leave your home. Your history and score are the largest factors in determining your finance rate. You can get your credit history for free once a year from sites like www.anualcreditreport.com or www.freecreditreport.com. But if you want to see an estimate of your score, you will have to purchase that. These scores are only consumer estimates. The dealer and banks receive an Auto Credit Score when determining your rates and these often differ from the consumer scores. But the consumer score will give you an idea of where you stand. When a dealer or bank looks at your credit, they will provide you with a “Credit Discloser” that has the Auto Credit Score they used with other factors in approving or denying your application.
  10. Put some money down! Again, if you are financing this helps the banks to give better rates because their risk on the loan is less. So the more you can pay upfront, the better.

Following these tips will help you find a great car with all your needs and hopefully all, or at least most, of your wants. Happy hunting.

Jim Schroeder
Internet Sales Director
Christenson Chevrolet
9700 Indianapolis Blvd
Highland, IN 46322
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