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When it comes to purchasing a car, who wouldn’t mind buying a new model? That new car smell, the shiny paint, and a clean interior are certainly all enticing, but it’s not always feasible to buy a brand new vehicle, especially if on a small budget. Also, keep in mind that a brand new car decreases in value as soon as it leaves the lot and loses up to 50% of its initial worth after three years. Therefore, purchasing a used car is really not a bad idea at all, provided that you know what to look for while shopping around. Huffines Hyundai McKinney has compiled this guide with tips to help you in your quest of choosing a reliable used vehicle.

Car Selection Process

Prior to searching for a used car, you must ask yourself what your needs are currently and how you might be using the car in the future. Are you purchasing a car for work, regular transportation, or leisure, or a combination thereof? Do you have or are you planning on having a family? What specific activities would you need the car for? Will the car need to accommodate any pets? Try to look online for ideas or even take a walk around your neighborhood to see if there are any cars that might inspire your decision. Remember, once you have purchased a vehicle and have second thoughts, getting rid of it might be difficult, and you might not even be able to get all of your money back if you resell or trade in your car.

Purchasing a car from a private party versus a dealership has its advantages. By buying privately, you are purchasing the vehicle directly from the owner, who should know the car’s history very well. You can ask them all sorts of questions and request vehicle service records, if possible. You can also get a sense for how the owner cared for the vehicle; if it looks great on the outside, chances are he or she took the time to maintain the inside of it as well.

When hunting for a used car, try to bring a friend that is car savvy, as their experienced advice could save you any unnecessary headaches.

Inspection and Test Driving

This is the most crucial part of any used car purchase. There are certain things that are important and a few that are not when it comes to inspecting the physical state of a used vehicle. Damage may be cosmetic and not integral to the functioning of the car, while other signs could signify costly repairs after you have purchased it.

Thoroughly inspect every inch of the car and look for scratches, dents, and rust. Rust on hinges and bolts located in the door jams and bolts indicates that the car could have been submerged under water. If you find black, greasy residue in the tailpipe, this means the engine is burning oil and there is a leak somewhere. Sniff around to check for the smell of cigarette smoke or mildew, which can be very difficult to remove.

Check for even tread wear on the tires, as uneven wear could indicate potential alignment issues. New tires installed on a used vehicle will hide this problem.

Take the car out for a 30-minute test drive. Listen for knocking sounds while accelerating. Notice if there are any smells of burnt oil, which signify a leaky head gasket (and a costly repair). Other aspects to check include the steering, braking mechanism (listen for grinding or metal-on-metal sounds), powered seats and windows, sound system, heating and air conditioning (do pay attention for any musty smells coming out of the vents), and any warning lights that may appear or flash on the dashboard. Check for ease of shifting (think of the car’s transmission) and be wary of any blue or white smoke coming out of the tailpipe. After the test drive, look under the hood and inspect the area for cracked hoses and fluid leaks, such as oil on the engine block.

Hiring a mechanic for an in-depth inspection of your chosen vehicle is always the most sensible solution to any concerns. The mechanic will be able to tell if there is any major damage, if any serious repairs were made, and if the car requires any additional necessary work.

Keep in mind that different state laws with regards to salvage titles allow for legal loopholes, meaning that rebuilt, wrecked cars might make it into the marketplace. Always inquire about the title to see the vehicle’s history prior to purchasing. Be careful with buying a car whose title was lost, as it typically means that there is some damage. It is estimated by Carfax — a vehicle history report agency — that approximately 20% of vehicles on the road have a history of accident damage, but keep in mind that this figure only reflects those cars whose owners have reported their accidents.

You might think that purchasing a reliable make is good enough even if buying used, but realize that each used car has its own story and as a result, the car might not meet your initial expectations down the road.

The Buying Process

A good piece of advice is to not make a purchase in a rush. Take your time, do your research, and always get a second opinion on your selection. With regards to pricing, you can always negotiate the seller’s price if you feel that there are integral or aesthetic issues which would be costly to repair.

The most important thing to remember in the process of purchasing a car is that you, the buyer, are the one who sets the final price, and not the owner. Negotiation is expected, so hold your ground based on your estimate of the car’s worth. And finally, always be ready to walk away if you think the price is too high. This could sometimes work in your favor if the seller does not have any other offers.

When you are in need of transportation but cannot afford a new car, the only other feasible option is to buy used. Going this route, however, means that you have to be extra careful with your decision-making process in order to avoid purchasing a lemon.

When you’re ready to buy a used car, come by Huffines Hyundai McKinney for a look at our used car inventory. We promise you’ll find something you’ll love.

Image via Flickr by brownpau


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